The Punjab Pulse
- A webinar discussion on the topic “One Nation – One Election ” was conducted jointly by Humanity First and The Punjab Pulse, on 27 December, 2020 at 7PM.
- Humanity First is a NGO based at Anandpur Sahib and dedicated to the wellbeing of the people of Punjab. It has done sterling work to create awareness about COVID-19 and has provided notable assistance to the people in overcoming the COVID challenge. The NGO is being run by the following:-
(a) S. Ajayvir Lalpura – President and Chief Mentor
(b) Lt. Gen. PS Mehta (Retd) – Patron-in-Chief
(c) S. Iqbal Singh Lalpura (National Spokesperson, BJP) – Patron
(d) Col. Jaibans Singh (Editor, The Punjab Pulse) – Patron
- The Punjab Pulse is an independent, non-partisan Think Tank engaged in research and in-depth study of all aspects that impact the state of Punjab and Punjabis. It strives to provide a platform for wide ranging dialogue that promote the interest of the state and its people.
- The webinar was addressed by two eminent speakers as follow:-
(a) Justice K.C. Puri – Member Human Rights Commission of Haryana
(b) Maj Gen. CP Singh (Retd) – Army Veteran, Career Consultant and Mentor
- The webinar was moderated by Prof. Simrit Kahlon, a senior academician from Panjab University, Chandigarh.
- The webinar witnessed a healthy participation of more than 100 people from various strata of society including retired army officers, academicians, lawyers, intellectuals, bureaucrats etc. Apart from the organiser mentioned above, prominent among the participants were:-
(a) Prof. Karamjeet Singh, Vice Chancellor, Jagat Guru Nanak Dev Punjab State Open University
(b) S. Satinder Singh, Former Councillor, Chandigarh and eminent lawyer
(c) Five academicians from Panjab University including senior professors S. Gurpal Singh. Prof Karanjot Kaur and Prof Arvind Sharma.
(d) Brig. Atul Nagpal, Colonel Nitin Kumar and Col. Alok Mathur, educationists and strategic experts.
- The webinar was telecast live on The Punjab Pulse Facebook page.
Points Highlighted by the Speakers and the Participants
- Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has said that One Nation, One Election is a need of the country. It is so because almost every day we hear that elections are being conducted in some segment or the other, ranging from parliamentary polls to the state polls and down to the grassroots level of Panchayats.
- Historically speaking, elections during the first two decades after Independence for the parliament and state legislative assemblies were held simultaneously, i.e., during 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967. Dissolution of certain assemblies, followed by the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 1970 and subsequent general elections in 1971, along with indiscriminate use of Article 356 (President’s Rule) disrupted the schedule.
- The idea of one nation one election made its début once again in the first annual report of the Election Commission in 1983. It had supported holding simultaneous elections to reduce expenditure, for effective use of manpower and human resource and to avoid hardship for the common people. The topic was revived and rejuvenated by the 170th Report of the Law Commission submitted in 1999.
- The proposal gained momentum with its mention in the manifesto of the BJP for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Thereafter, NITI Aayog issued a working paper on the subject in 2017 titled, “Analysis of Simultaneous Elections: The What, Why and How.” It broadly recommended a gradual move to synchronization of elections to parliament and state legislative assemblies between 2019 and 2024.
- In a study of the international scenario, it is revealed that a system to ensure simultaneous elections or fixed term does exists in certain countries like Germany and UK, for sure. Even in USA, the term of the President is fixed for 04 years with maximum two terms because of a very difficult impeachment process.
- The arguments in favour of holding simultaneous elections can be summarized as follows:-
(a) Money and administrative expense will be drastically cut. In 1951 elections, 53 political parties contested and the expense declared was 11 crores. In recent 2019 elections, 610 political parties contested and the expense as per ADR is 60,000 crores.
(b) Government will have time for some constructive work. Frequent imposition of model code of conduct hampers developmental and welfare activities.
(c) The ruling dispensation will be able to focus on legislation and governance. Presently it remains in campaign mode all the time.
(d) The entire state and district level administrative and security machinery will be occupied with the conduct of elections only once in five years or a little more than that, contrary to the current practice.
(e) Large numbers of teachers are involved in the electoral process adversely affecting education sector. This will be avoided.
- To conduct simultaneous elections in India, many amendments to the constitution of India are to be made. Briefly these are:-
(a) Article 83 (Tenure of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), Article 83(2)11 ), Article 172 (1) ( five years term of State Legislative Assembly), Article 83 (2) and Article 172 (1) (Extension of Parliament and State assemblies, Article 85 (2)(b) and 174 (2)(b) ( power to dissolve Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies)
(b) The Representation of People Act 1951, which covers various modalities of conducting elections in the country also needs to be amended.
- Such amendments would require absolute majority in both houses of parliament. Ratification of the amendments by not less than one-half of the state legislatures may also be required as a matter of abundant precaution. A political consensus is, therefore essential for the large scale amendments
- The process would also require some states to agree to curtail the terms of their assemblies and forgo their regional identities.
- The foregoing would require rising above petty politics and keeping the “Nation First” ethos in mind. Perhaps the biggest hurdle would be creation of this political consensus.
- Prime Minister Modi has also stated, “We must remember that when politics take over people and nation-first policies, the nation has to pay adversely in such situations.” Hence, considering that political ideology has taken a downward spiral in recent times, it appears difficult to achieve this.
(a) Self interest of politicians is supreme, interest of their political party comes second and national interests comes last, always and every time.
(b) Any idea, howsoever good or bad, is supported or opposed on party lines. Support is never issue based. The intelligentsia and experts (actual or self proclaimed), sadly, have also become partisan and are following a, “we or they” paradigm.
(c) It will also be said that simultaneous elections threaten the federal character of our democracy.
(d) Regional parties will have the apprehension that large national parties would reap benefits on the basis of economy of scale.
- A big challenge to the process is that in case of a hung Lok Sabha, there is no provision for President’s rule like in case of states. Given the fractured polity of the nation, we may be forced into national elections in quick succession.
- In consideration of the challenges involved. The implementation could be carried out in three phases as under-
(a) Phase 1- All elections in a year be held together.
(a) Phase 2- General elections be held once in 30 months, once with national elections and once for remaining states somewhere midway.
(a) Phase 3- In the final phase, all elections be synchronised and scheduled to be held together.21Meeting of minds may be a good beginning in our pursuit of the goal of “One Nation, One Election.
(a) Focused groups of constitutional experts, think tanks, government officials and representatives of political parties could be formed to work out appropriate implementation related details.
(b) To set the pace, the tenures of some state assemblies will be curtailed or extended.
- One India One Election’ would be a good initiative if it could be carried out with the proper execution of policies and rules, taking care of the rising need for good administrative staff and security.
- Realisation of this dream will require not only the meeting of minds, but also statesmanship from the leadership
- The well meaning citizens of this country look up to our dynamic Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be the harbinger of change in this matter.