India is currently abuzz with discussions about the possibility of implementing ‘one nation, one election,’ a concept that aims to synchronize the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The government of India formed a committee with former President of India Ramnath Kovind as the Chairman. The committee also includes Amit Shah and other members as the members. In this article, we will explore the origins of this concept, the arguments both in favor and against it, and the potential implications for India’s diverse democracy.
The Concept of ‘One Nation, One Election’:
The idea of simultaneous elections in India is not new. Independent India had simultaneous elections held in 1951 for State assemblies and the Lok Sabha. This practice continued in subsequent years too but, as states were restructured, and assemblies were prematurely dissolved, the trend faded away in the early 1970s.
The current push for ‘one nation, one election’ gained momentum with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advocacy for the same. As early as 2016, he proposed the concept of Jamili Elections. While the Indian word “Jamili or Zamili” means paired or coupled, the term ‘Jamili elections’ refers to the concept of “One nation – One Election.” Modi argued that the continuous cycle of elections places a financial burden on the country and disrupts development due to the Model Code of Conduct.
Arguments in Favor of ‘One Nation, One Election’:
1. Financial Efficiency: Proponents argue that frequent elections impose a heavy financial burden on the exchequer. The cost of conducting Lok Sabha and state polls is estimated at Rs 4,500 crore. If the elections are held separately, Lok Sabha elections would require around 4000 crores, and each state election would need around 100-450 crores (depending on the size of the state). These numbers include only the expenditure incurred by the Election Commission and are approximate.
2. Governance and Policy Focus: Frequent elections can lead to short-term thinking and policy paralysis. Simultaneous elections would allow governments to concentrate on long-term visions and better governance.
3. Reduced Disruption: Normal government activities are often halted due to the Model Code of Conduct during elections. ‘One nation, one election’ would minimize these disruptions.
Arguments Against ‘One Nation, One Election’:
1. Constitutional Challenges: Critics argue that simultaneous elections require shortening or extending the terms of existing state assemblies. This is nothing but a violation of the Constitution.
2. Federalism Concerns: The idea challenges the federal spirit of the Indian constitution by pressuring state governments to dissolve prematurely, even if they have years remaining in their term.
3. Political Motives: Some believe that the push for ‘one nation, one election’ is politically motivated, with the BJP seeking to capitalize on its current popularity. In addition, many believe that BJP wants to gain in the state elections with this move.
4. Accountability Issues: The simultaneous election model could lead to autocracy as governments might become less accountable to the people with no impending state or local elections. This poses a threat to India’s pluralistic democracy.
5. Misconceptions About Expenditure: As of now, as per the estimates, ‘Jamili’ elections would cost 4500 crores for all elections, while separate elections for states and Lok Sabha would require around 50,000 crores for an entire 5-year period. However, this saving of 45,000 crores over the period of 5 years is relatively small compared to India’s total annual revenue expenditure of 34 lakh crores.
6. Impact on diversity: Many critics opine that in a country where language changes every 500 km, and cultures shift every 100 km, pluralism and diversity are the lifelines. Ignoring this diversity and trying to bring everything under a single umbrella could be a wrong decision. In addition, this move is seen as an attempt to suppress regional parties.
The debate surrounding ‘one nation, one election’ is complex and multifaceted. While proponents argue for increased efficiency and better governance, critics raise valid concerns about constitutional, federal, and accountability issues. We need to wait for the report of the committee.
• There are sections of people in India who believe that EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) can be tampered with, which is NOT at all true. These people innocently fear that the ‘One Nation, One Election’ concept may make it easier to tamper with EVMs for all elections.
• Some other sections of people sarcastically comment that the concept might pave the way for a “One Nation, One Political Party” scheme in the future, potentially eliminating all other parties from the country.
– ZURAN (@CriticZuran)