The federal government on One Nation One election: UPSC

Very recently, the Hon’ble President of India and the Hon’ble Prime Minister strongly pitched their support for holding the One Nation One election(simultaneous elections) at public forums. The Hon’ble President noted “With some election or the other throughout the year, normal activities of the government come to a standstill because of code of conduct. This is an idea the political leadership should think of. If political parties collectively think, we can change it…. The Election Commission can also put in their idea and efforts on holding the polls together and that will be highly beneficial

Is this a new idea?

Simultaneous elections were held in the country during the first two decades after Independence up to 1967. The very first elections of India, in 1951-52 and the following elect structure is adopted for the above purposes of 1957, 1962 and 1967 were all simultaneous elections.

Structure adopted for the One Nation one election

a)Background and context setting: What do we mean by simultaneous elections, historical perspective, and relevant constitutional & statutory provisions;
b) Why Simultaneous Elections: Articulating the imperatives for holding simultaneous elections in the country;
c) Likely criticism of this idea and counter-arguments: Arguments against simultaneous elections and their counter-assessments;
d) How to implement simultaneous elections: Analyzing how to practically and operationally implement simultaneous elections and how to ensure that this idea is sustainable over the longer-term;

Read GS paper 1 articles here

Pre-mature dissolution of Lok Sabha or State Assemblies

Article 85 (2)(b) of the Constitution of India provides the President with the powerto dissolve Lok Sabha.Similar provision for dissolution of State Legislative Assemblies by the Governor of State is provided under Article 174 (2)(b). Further, in respect of prematuredissolution of a State Legislative Assembly, Article 356 is also relevant.

In the event of a State is under President’s Rule as provided under Article 356, the Legislative Assembly of the said State may be prematurely dissolved by the President.

While there have been several cases of the proclamation of President’s Rule in States under Article 356 in the past, premature dissolution of State Assemblies has been made significantly stringent in the light of Anti-Defection Act 1985 and the judgement by the Constitutional Bench of
Supreme Court of India in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India.

In effect, the President can put Legislative Assembly in suspended animation but cannot dissolve it without the concurrence of both Houses of
Parliament. The Judiciary can examine the validity of such proclamation and restore the dismissed State Government and revive the dissolved Legislative Assembly if Article 356 is found to be mala fide in its

What are the pros of implementing simultaneous polls?

  • Money and administrative expense will be drastically cut, political parties spend a lot on elections campaigning
    • 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
  • Government will have time for some constructive work because imposition of model code of conduct for such a long time is hampering developmental and welfare activities.
  • The ruling parties will be able to focus on legislation and governance rather than having to be in campaign mode forever.
  • The entire State and District level administrative and security machinery will be busy with the conduct of elections twice in a period of five years as per the current practice.
  • Large numbers of teachers are involved in the electoral process which causes maximum harm to the education sector.

Read GS paper 2 articles here

  • It will save public money, reduce burden on administrative setup and security forces, ensure timely implementation of the government policies and ensure that the administrative machinery is engaged in developmental activities rather than electioneering.
  • The voters will be able to judge the policies and programmes of the government, both at the state level and the central level. Also, it would be easy for the voters to determine which political party promised what and how it actually implemented the same.
  • It is also necessary to solve the problem of governance on the part of the politicians who are ruling. It is generally seen that for short term political gains from a particular assembly election, ruling politicians avoid taking a harsh long term decision which can ultimately help the country in the long run.
  • Holding elections once in five years can provide more time to all the stakeholders i.e. political parties, ECI, paramilitary forces, civilians for its preparation.

What are the disadvantages of implementing simultaneous polls?

  • Amendments to the constitution: To conduct simultaneous elections in India, many amendments to the constitution of India are to be made.
    • Article 83 of the Constitution provides for the tenure of both Houses of the Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha).
    • Article 83(2)11 provides for a term of five years for Lok Sabha, from the date of its first sitting unless dissolved earlier.
    • Article 172 (1) provides for five-year tenure for State Legislative Assembly from the date of its first sitting.
    • The provision to Article 83 (2) of the Constitution provides that when a proclamation of emergency is in operation, the term of the House may be extended for a period not exceeding one year at a time by Parliament by law and not extending in any case beyond a period of six months after the Proclamation has ceased to operate.
    • A similar provision also exists for State Legislative Assembly under the proviso to Article 172 (1) of the Constitution.
    • Article 85 (2)(b) of the Constitution of India provides the President with the power to dissolve Lok Sabha. A similar provision for dissolution of State Legislative Assemblies by the Governor of State is provided under Article 174 (2)(b)
    • The Representation of People Act 1951, which covers various modalities of conducting elections in the country, also needs to be amended.
  • Simultaneous elections threaten the federal character of our democracy.
  • Large national parties would reap the economies of scale of one large election every five years, to the disadvantage of regional parties.
  • It is against the constitutional fabric.

Recommendations:

  • Law Commission of India recommended simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative.
  • 79th report of the parliamentary standing committee on Law and Justice recommended a two-phase election schedule – one concurrent with Lok Sabha elections, the second in the mid-term of the Lok Sabha.
  • The Election Commission has also extended its in-principle support for the simultaneous elections.

Read GS paper 3 articles here

Challenges to ‘One Nation One Election’

  • The term of the Lok Sabha and that of the State Legislative Assemblies needs to be synchronised so that the election to both can be held within a given span of time.
    • For instance, the term of the present Lok Sabha will go upto 2024, but elections to some of the legislative assembly had already taken place last year (for e.g. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) and some are due this year (for e.g. Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand), resulting in different dates of completion of the term.
  • To sync the term of the State Legislative Assemblies with that of the Lok Sabha, the term of the state legislative assemblies can be reduced and increased accordingly and for the same, the constitutional amendment would be needed in:
    • Article 83: It states that the term of the Lok Sabha will be five years from the date of its first sitting.
    • Article 85: It empowers the President to dissolve the Lok Sabha.
    • Article 172: It states that the term of the legislative assembly will be five years from the date of its first sitting.
    • Article 174: It empowers the Governor of the state to dissolve the Legislative Assembly.
    • Article 356: It authorises the Central Government to impose President’s Rule for failure of constitutional machinery in the state.
    • The Representation of the People Act as well as related parliamentary procedure will also need to be amended.
  • The core issue which hinders its implementation is India’s Parliamentary Form of Government in which the government is accountable to the Lower House (Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly). It is quite possible that the government can fall before completing its term and the moment government falls, there has to be an election.
  • It is difficult to convince all the political parties on ‘One Nation One Election’.

Logistical Challenges

  • At present, one voting machine is being used at every polling station for taking a poll. For holding simultaneous elections, the requirements for EVMs and the VVPATs will double, because for every polling station, the ECI has to provide two sets (one for election to the Legislative Assembly and second for that to the Lok Sabha).
  • There will also be an additional requirement of the polling staff.
  • There will be difficulty in transporting materials to the polling stations.
  • There will be a need for better security arrangements for simultaneous elections thus augmenting the Central Police Forces accordingly.
  • The ECI is already facing problems in storing EVMs after elections.

Read GS paper 4 articles here

Problems within the Solutions

  • The amendments would require apart from the two-thirds majority of both houses of the Parliament, also ratification by at least half of the state assemblies.
  • It is so that even if the constitution gets amended, there still will be reasons due to which an assembly may get dissolved, therefore, one nation-one time-one election is not possible.
  • Switching to the Presidential form of government would mean altering the basic structure of the constitution.
  • Any ruling political party would hardly like to dissolve the assembly for the sake of simultaneous polls.

Read GS paper 2 articles here

To Conclude

  • ‘One India One Election’ would be a good chance 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. 
  • A focused group of constitutional experts thinks tanks, government officials, and representatives of political parties should be formed to work out appropriate implementation-related details.
  • Finally, it can bring a necessary improvement and we can experience the Election Revamped version!

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