Home NEWS ‘One Nation, One Election’, Fourth Committee

‘One Nation, One Election’, Fourth Committee

New Delhi: Union minister for parliamentary affairs Pralhad Joshi on Friday, September 1, said that a committee has been formed to examine the possibility of a system of “One Nation, One Election”, under which simultaneous elections would be held for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

The idea of simultaneous elections is not new and has been advocated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past.

The present committee, headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind, will be the fourth to examine the possibility of simultaneous elections.

Earlier, the prospect was discussed by the Law Commission, NITI Aayog, and a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

“Right now only a committee has been constituted to discuss the topic of ‘One nation, One election’,” Joshi told reporters on Friday.

“Once the committee comes up with a report, it will be placed in the public domain and a discussion will be held. When the report comes to parliament, it will be discussed in parliament as well. There is nothing to be nervous about, as discussions will be held. We are the world’s largest democracy and we are known as the mother of democracy. This is the evolution of democracy in the mother of democracy,” he said.

“The new issues that come in national interest need to be discussed in a democracy. This does not mean that such a system will be brought in tomorrow. We have not said that.”

It was announced on September 2, that the government has formed an eight-member committee to examine the ‘One nation, One election’ possibility.

Former President Ram Nath Kovind was appointed as chairman of the committee. Union home minister Amit Shah, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, former Rajya Sabha LoP Ghulam Nabi Azad, former finance commission chairman N.K. Singh, former secretary general Lok Sabha Subhash C. Kashyap, senior advocate Harish Salve and former chief vigilance commissioner Sanjay Kothari are in the committee.

The notification added that law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal will attend the committee meetings as a special invitee. The committee is expected to begin functioning immediately and submit its recommendations “at the earliest”.

Former president Ram Nath Kovind. Photo: PTI‘One Nation, One Election’ proposal not new

The idea of simultaneous elections is not new.

The first few general elections post-independence were held simultaneously, with the state legislative assembly elections, according to a paper published by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Wing of the Research & Information Division, Lok Sabha Secretariat.

While the practice continued till 1967, due to the premature dissolution of some state assemblies in 1968 and 1969, the system of simultaneous elections was disrupted.

“Thus, since the 1967 elections, the practice of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas could not be maintained and the elections have still not been realigned,” the paper states.

Modi government’s three committees to study simultaneous polls

Since the Modi government came to power in 2014, simultaneous elections have been on the agenda.

The Modi government has already constituted three separate committees to look into the possibility of having a system for “One Nation, One Polls.”

Law Commission

In August 2018, the Law Commission of India released its draft report on simultaneous elections.

According to PRS Legislative Researchthe Law Commission draft report noted that simultaneous elections cannot be held within the existing framework of the constitution.

In order to conduct such simultaneous elections, it said that there needs to be made appropriate amendments to the constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.

It also said that at least 50% of the states should ratify the constitutional amendments.

However, the Law Commission in 1999 had suggested simultaneous elections.

The Commission – then headed by former Justice B.P Jeevan Reddy – in its 170th Report on Reform of Electoral Laws (1999) had cautioned that such elections cannot be held overnight.

It recommended advancing some state elections, and making adjustments in the schedule of others, a possible constitutional amendment for extending or curtailing the term of one or more legislative assemblies, and also suggested simultaneous motion of no-confidence in the incumbent government as well as confidence in alternative government, among others.

Parliamentary standing committee

The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, Rajya Sabha in its 79th report in 2015 also studied the possibility of holding simultaneous elections.

Titled ‘Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Elections to the House of People (Lok Sabha) and State Legislative Assemblies’ the report was tabled in parliament on December 2015.

The report took into account the findings of the 1999 Law Commission report and recommended holding simultaneous elections in two phases with elections of some assemblies at the midterm of the Lok Sabha and the remaining at the end of the tenure of the Lok Sabha.

It also recommended that early elections to the Lok Sabha or state assemblies can take place only if either of two conditions is met: i) a motion for an early General Election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House (including vacant seats); or ii) If a no-confidence motion is passed and no alternative government is confirmed by the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assemblies within fourteen days by means.

NITI Aayog

In February 2018, minister of state for law and justice P.P. Chaudhary said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha that the government had received the recommendations of the NITI Aayog in a paper titled “Analysis of Simultaneous Elections”.

Chaudhary said that the NITI Aayog report had taken into account the Standing Committee’s report and worked out a possible framework whereby elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies could be held simultaneously in two phases.

“The paper envisages holding simultaneous elections to the Assemblies of about one half of the States along with Lok Sabha General Elections due in April-May 2019 and the rest of the States in the mid-way, i.e. October-November, 2021, entailing extension or curtailment of the duration of the Assemblies wherever required,” he said.

“However, this would require amendments to the relevant provisions of the Constitution.”

The government has not taken any decision on the recommendations of any of these committee reports and has now come up with a fourth committee to look into the subject of “One Nation, One Election.”

Modi’s pitch for ‘One Nation, One Election’

Apart from these three committees that have studied the issue, over the years, Modi himself has strongly pitched for the idea of simultaneous elections.

In his 2019 Independence Day speechModi said after the government had achieved ‘one nation, one tax’ through the Goods and Services Tax, “there are now demands of ‘one nation, one election’”.

In June of that year, soon after returning to power, Modi met leaders of various political parties to explore the possibilities of simultaneous elections.

In November 2020, while addressing the All India Presiding Officers, Modi said: “’One Nation, One Election’ isn’t just an issue of deliberation but also a need of the country.

In January 2022, Modi reiterated his call for simultaneous elections and said that continuous cycles of elections result in politics being seen in everything while development works suffer.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Regional Panchayati Raj Council in West Bengal on August 12, 2023. Photo: Screengrab via YouTube/Narendra Modi

The challenge of simultaneous elections

In a written reply to Lok Sabha in March this year, then-law minister Kiren Rijiju said that while the subject has been studied by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, and such elections “would result in huge savings to the public exchequer”, some challenges remain.

This included, “Bringing amendments in not less than five articles of Constitution, namely, article 83 relating to duration of Houses of Parliament, article 85 relating to dissolution of the House of the People by the President, article 172 relating to duration of the State Legislatures, article 174 relating to dissolution of the State Legislatures and article 356 relating to the imposition of President’s Rule in the States.”

He also said that the consensus of all political parties and state governments would be essential with regard to India’s federal structure of governance.

Rijiju added that the exercise would also need an additional number of EVMs/VVPATs, which would cost a huge amount, “might be in thousands of crores” along with additional polling personnel and security forces.

Speaking to The Wire, former chief election commissioner T.S. Krishna Murthy said while simultaneous elections may provide more advantages than disadvantages, implementation remains the key question.

“It has certain advantages and disadvantages, maybe the advantages are more. But the question is implementation. What is most crucial is the constitutional amendment, unless that is possible it will remain a discussion on paper.”

“The advantage is that you save money, the disadvantage is that state elections will be affected [by the mood of the Lok Sabha elections]. But I don’t agree with that as state elections have been held parallelly to general elections and states like Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, have had different parties elected. But these are the questions being raised by opposition parties.”

‘Diversionary, tactical move’

Opposition parties meanwhile have opposed the move to bring about simultaneous elections.

Anshul Avijit, national spokesperson of the Congress, told The Wire that the Modi government is using the idea as a “diversionary and tactical move.”

“There are two aspects. It is a diversionary and a tactical move to bring nationalism to local issues and therefore influence voters.”

“This is not to simplify the electoral process. It is basically to grab power in a manner that has eluded them so far because they have been far more unsuccessful in winning state elections. So they are thinking of a way to amend the constitution through brute force and grabbing power,” Avijit said

He added that while the idea is not new, it is being brought up now because Modi is “facing challenges”.

“Whenever there is a serious challenge to the prime minister – like the meeting of the INDIA parties, or allegations against Adani, or China releasing a map in which Arunachal Pradesh is included, or unemployment, widespread poverty, or bringing Manipur under control – the prime minister comes up with something like this.”

Other members of the opposition alliance, INDIA, also said that the Modi government is using the idea to “mislead the country” as the third meeting of the bloc was underway in Mumbai.

BJP calls it a  “welcome move”

Meanwhile, the BJP has welcomed the move.

“It is a positive development that has been initiated by the party and the government and it should be welcomed,” Syed Zafar Islam, national spokesperson of the BJP, told The Wire.

“This committee has been entrusted to discuss the advantages and disadvantages (of simultaneous polls) and it will evaluate every possibility and submit its report on the floor of the parliament.”

The latest move to form the committee comes a day after speculation surrounding Joshi’s announcement of a special session of parliament scheduled to be held next month from September 18-22.

However, the Union government has remained tightlipped about the agenda of the special session.

“The parliamentary affairs minister has very clearly stated that the special session has been convened to consider issues that will help the progress of the nation. All the important issues will be discussed on the floor of the parliament,” said Islam.

Note: This article has been updated with news on the committee’s notification.

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