A way Forward to One Nation One Election
Updated: Mar 14, 2022
Elections in India are celebrated as a festival. Conducting elections in the world’s largest democracy is mammoth. Elections have an impact on citizens, bureaucracy, businessmen, political parties and everything in the country. Indian polity is always in election mode due to continuous elections in various parts of the country. A simultaneous election is one of the options which will help the country for development, and improve the quality of governance. In this article, the author explained the meaning of one nation one election with past and the need for simultaneous elections. Various concerns regarding the One Nation One Election are addressed in this article. The author also studied the reasons for disrupting the cycle of simultaneous elections which started after independence. After reading suggestions from NITI Aayog, Law Commission of India and studying election systems of other countries author suggested some ways to implement simultaneous elections. In this article, the author also suggested long term solutions for avoiding disruption of the cycle of simultaneous elections.
What is One Nation One Election
One nation one election or simultaneous elections means conducting elections to the house of People (Lok Sabha), state legislative assemblies and local bodies in a synchronized manner. It means voter will cast his or her on the same day for all representatives in their constituency. Simultaneous elections do not mean elections in a single day all over the country. In a country like India elections will conduct in different phases. It might take one or two months for conducting elections all over the country.
History of simultaneous elections in India
After independence, India started with simultaneous elections. From 1951 to 1967 elections for Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies were held together. This cycle of simultaneous elections disturbed because of the premature dissolution of some legislative assemblies. In 1970 4th Lok Sabha got dissolved prematurely which lead to general elections in 1971. From 1967 to 1999 instability of alliance governments disrupted the cycle of Lok Sabha elections. Political parties in the central misused article 356 of the Indian constitution and dissolved state legislative assemblies prematurely. The demand for one nation one election arises many times from 1982. So this is high time to think of simultaneous elections.
Need of one nation one election
Indian polity is always in an election mode. In India apart from general elections, there are 5-7 assembly elections annually. Imposition of Model Code of Conduct leads to policy paralysis. Political parties in power make short term policies for gain in elections. The election is a burden on public servants. It does not allow bureaucrats, police, teacher to do their regular duties. This hinders the process of development.
Continuous elections create a financial burden on states as well as central government. For contesting elections, political parties and candidates need money which leads to corruption. Elections create a divide among citizens on basis of caste, religion, etc.
Concerns regarding simultaneous elections
The main concern regarding simultaneous elections is that it will affect federal democracy in India. Many people and political parties argue that simultaneous elections will help national parties. If general election and state assemblies elections held together national issues will dominate local issues and eventually it will affect local political parties. One nation one election on paper looks great but it has serious implementation challenges. It requires many constitutional amendments and has some large administrative challenges. By curtailing and extending the period of state assemblies and local bodies we can start a system of simultaneous elections. However, it will not last long term until a constitutional amendment in the tenure of Lok Sabha and state assemblies. Frequent elections keep eye on politicians. People in power have to face citizens regularly which maintains accountability. Many experts argue that Indian voters are not mature enough to differentiate between voting choices for Lok sabha and state assembly.
Implementation of one nation one election
There are three ways to implement simultaneous elections in India.
Implementation of the One Nation One Election is a gradual and slow process. It should be done by taking small steps.
Annual Elections:- All states which are having elections in the same year can undergo elections at the same time by curtailing or extending the tenure of current assemblies. Government should decide election day/month for a country. So all elections in the same year will take place at the same time. This will be one step towards simultaneous elections but this is not the most efficient way for simultaneous elections.
Elections after every 5 years:- This is a way of conducting elections of all state assemblies and Lok sabha together at the same time. However, this is not a feasible way because many state assemblies will undergo elections in 2022, 2023. This might be the end goal of simultaneous elections but this is not the first step towards simultaneous elections.
Elections after every 2.5 years:- This is way conducting elections by dividing states into 2 groups. 1st group of states will undergo election on April-May 2024 with Lok Sabha. 2nd group of states will undergo polls after 30 months that is in November 2026. By this method, there will be elections after 2.5 years. This is the most efficient method for having simultaneous elections.
Extension and Curtailment of tenures of state legislative assemblies
The next general election is in April- May 2024 if this Lok sabha has a complete tenure of 5 years. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim have their next elections between March to June 2024 so by small changes in their tenure these states can undergo elections with Lok sabha. Apart from these four states, nine states can undergo assembly elections with Lok sabha by curtailment or extension of 5 to 17 months. In this group of states, Bihar will have curtailment of 17 months from the normal tenure of the assembly and Karnataka will have an extension of 12 months. This group of states include Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi(-8months), Haryana(-5months), Jharkhand(-6months), Karnataka(+12months), Maharashtra(-5months), Mizoram(+6months), Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana(+5months), Chattisgarh(+5months), Bihar(-17months). So by this method in April-may 2024 loksabha and 13 states can go for polls.
After elections in April-May 2024, the remaining 17 states can undergo elections after 30 months that is in November 2026. This group of states include assam(+6months), goa(-5months), Gujrat(-13months), Himachal Pradesh(-12months), kerala(+7months), Madhya Pradesh(-14months), Manipur(-5months), Meghalaya(-16), Nagaland(-16months), Pondicherry(+6months), Punjab(-8months), rajasthan(-14months), tamil nadu(+6 months), Tripura(-17), uttar Pradesh (-5months), Uttarakhand(-5months), west Bengal (+6months). By curtailment or extension of tenures of current state legislative assemblies goal of simultaneous elections is achievable.
Amendments in the constitution and other statutes
A special bill is required for the extension or curtailment of tenures of current legislative assemblies. This bill should require a special majority in parliament and affirmation from half of total state legislative assemblies.
For making simultaneous elections long term process some changes are required in the constitution:
According to article 83 and 172 of the Indian Constitution tenure of loksabha and state legislative assemblies is 5 years from the first sitting. However, loksabha and legislative assemblies can be dissolved prematurely because of different reasons. Amendment for a fixed tenure of Loksabha and state legislative assemblies is required similar to United Kingdom’s Fixed-term Parliaments act, 2011.
One of the reasons for the premature dissolution of Loksabha and state legislative assemblies is the ‘ No- Confidence Motion’. For avoiding premature dissolution and fresh elections which will disrupt the cycle of simultaneous elections amendment in article 83 and article 172 is required. This amendment will introduce a ‘Constructive vote of no-confidence like the german constitution. Prime Minister and Chief Ministers will lose their positions if their successor is elected by the same house.
Article 243 (U) 4 states that if any municipality dissolved prematurely then the new government will continue for the remainder period. This clause should be added to article 83 and article 172 of the Indian constitution so if loksabha or state assemblies dissolved prematurely cycle of simultaneous elections will not disrupt.
One of the main reason for disrupting the cycle of simultaneous elections after 1967 was a misuse of article 356 of the Indian Constitution. After H.R.Bommai VS UOI judgement misuse of article 356 is stringent.
In India, we have two different voters lists which are maintained by the election commission and state election commissions. Separate voters list is waste of time and resources. The election commission should start maintaining only one voter's list for all elections in the country.
‘One Nation One Election’ or simultaneous elections is a topic of further debate and discussion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also pitched the topic of the One Nation One Election at the presiding officers' conference. Considering Indian demographics rapid transformation is required rather than slow evolution. For better governance and growth One Nation One Election is the need of the hour. All decisions on this topic should be taken by consensus and all opinions from all stakeholders should be taken into consideration. India should go towards simultaneous elections gradually. Government can set up a committee of experts for drafting amendments in the constitution and other statutes, for discussing a way to implement simultaneous elections. Suggestions given by the author will help to conduct elections of loksabha and state assemblies in a synchronized manner. States after discussion and deliberation can conduct elections of local bodies at the same time with Loksabha and state legislative assemblies. Simultaneous elections will help the country to develop and grow.
About the author
Yugant Vitthal Rane, 18. The author is a first-year law student at Government Law College, Mumbai and a student volunteer at Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access(IDIA) which is PAN India Non-Profit Organization. The author has interests in fields of governance, public policies, law and social service. The author likes to do legal research and read about current affairs.