AFPA



One Nation, One Election: Significance, advantages and the way forward

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the concluding session of the 80th All India Presiding Officers Conference via video conference, at Kevadiya (Gujarat) on the occasion of Constitution Day (26th November).

He raised the word for ‘One Nation, One Election’, with a single voter list for all polls and also asked the presiding officers to make easy the language of statute books and allow for an simplistic process to draw out inessential laws.

He also paid homage to the security forces and applauded India’s efforts to fight terrorism. This day marked 12 years of the Mumbai terror attacks.

Key Features:

The idea of One Nation, One Election will restructure the Indian election cycle in such a manner that the elections to the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha are synchronized together and the election to both are conducted simultaneously within a given time span thus saving time and money.

The idea also suggests that only one voter list must be used for Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha, and other elections.

Advantages:

  • Helps to keep a check on the poll expenditures, party expenses, etc. and also it will save public money.
  • Lessen the burden on administrative setup and security forces.
  • Ensure prompt implementation of the government policies and also ensure that the administrative machinery is engaged in developmental activities rather than electioneering.
  • The problem of governance on the part of the politicians who are ruling will be solved. As it is generally observed, that ruling politicians avoid taking a harsh long term decision which can ultimately help the country in the long run, to seek short term political gains from a particular assembly election.
  • It may provide more time to all the concerned parties i.e. Election Commission of India (ECI), political parties, security forces, civilians for the preparation of elections once in five years.

Challenges:

  • Considering the traditions and conventions that India’s Parliamentary system follows the synchronisation can be a big problem. As the government is accountable to the Lower House and there is a possibility that the government can fall before completing its tenure and the moment the government dissolves, there has to be an election.
  • It is difficult to persuade and unite all the political parties on the idea.
  • The Election Commission of India will have to double the requirements for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) for conducting simultaneous elections, the ECI will have to provide two sets (one for election to the Legislative Assembly and second for the elections to Lok Sabha).
  • An additional requirement of the polling staff and security staff for better security arrangements will be needed.

Suggestions:

  • India conducted elections for assemblies and the Lok Sabha simultaneously from 1951-52 till 1967. But, later in 1968 and 1969 after the dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies and also the Lok Sabha in December 1970, the elections to State Assemblies and Parliament were conducted separately.
  • So, again India can plan of holding elections at the same time even for the local bodies.
  • In 1983 in the annual report of the Election Commission shifting back to simultaneous elections was mentioned. Also in 1999, the Law Commission approved the move in its report.
  • Again in 2016 when PM Modi spoke about it, the NITI Aayog prepared a legal document on the subject.
  • The term of the State Legislative Assemblies can be increased or decreased accordingly, to sync it with the tenure of the Lok Sabha. But in order to do so, some constitutional amendments are required to be made in Articles like 83, 85, 172, 174 and 356.
  • In India, due Parliamentary form of government finalizing the dates is not practical, so a revolutionary solution is to shift to the Presidential form of Government, because here the President is not accountable to the House.

One Voter List:

Only one voter list must be used for Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha, and other elections.

Advantages:

A separate voters list causes duplication of the effort to prepare separate Voters list and also it doubles the expenditure. Whereas a common electoral roll will save a huge amount of efforts and revenue.

Challenges:

Convincing the state governments to alter their respective laws and adopt the ECI voters list for municipal and panchayat polls will be a challenging job.

Requires an enormous consensus-seeking exercise.

Suggestions:

The wise process for the states is to adopt EC’s voter list.

The EC’s voters list is to be made in such a way that it should fit the State Election Commissions’ wards, even though it is a tedious task but with the help of technology it can be done.

About All India Presiding Officers Conference:

It began in 1921.

The conference recently held in Gujarat marks its centenary year.

The theme for this year was: ‘Harmonious Coordination between Legislature, Executive and Judiciary: Key to a Vibrant Democracy’.

The need for coordination between all three wings of the state, viz. Legislature, Executive and Judiciary was emphasized and suggests these three wings to be guided by the Constitution which mentions their role to their decorum.

Way Forward

To implement such a law requires huge and deep amount of study. The consensus of the population of the country and its political parties is must. Everyone is required to cooperatively discuss and debate on the idea. Apart from this taking public opinion into consideration is must. Also, it has to be kept in mind that no hindrances should be created in the developmental works going on every few months. Then only a mature democracy like India can follow the outcome of this idea.