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Panel to explore ‘One Nation, One Election‘

  • Published
    2nd Sep, 2023
Context

Recently, the government has announced to form a committee to explore the feasibility of "one nation, one election".

About

About the Committee:

  • The Committee was formed under former President Ram NathKovind.
  • The committee will give a report which will be debated in Parliament.

The Cycle of Simultaneous Elections in India

  • First General Elections to the House of People (LokSabha) and all State Legislative Assemblies were held simultaneously in 1951-52.
  • That practice continued in three subsequent General Elections held in the years 1957, 1962 and 1967. However, due to the premature dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969, the cycle got disrupted.
  • In 1970, the LokSabha was itself dissolved prematurely and fresh elections were held in 1971. Thus, the First, Second and Third LokSabha enjoyed full five-year terms.
  • The term of the Fifth LokSabha was extended till 1977 under Article 352.
  • After that, the Eighth, Tenth, Fourteenth and FifteenthLokSabha could complete their full five-year terms.
  • The Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Eleventh, Twelfth and ThirteenthLokSabha was dissolved prematurely.
  • As a result of premature dissolutions and extension of terms of both the LokSabha and various State Legislative Assemblies, for the last forty-eight years, there have been separate elections to LokSabha and States Legislative Assemblies, and the cycle of simultaneous elections has been disturbed.

Urge for ‘One nation, one election’:

  • The Law Commission studied the issue in 1999 and again in 2018, as did the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, in its report in December 2015.
  • In 2017, the NITI Aayog also submitted a paper on the benefits of simultaneous polls.
  • The 21st Law Commissionin 2018 says constitutional amendments are needed for simultaneous polls.

Constitutional and Statutory Provisions Relevant to the Issue:

  • Article 83(2) of the Constitution provides for a normal term of five years for the House of People (LokSabha).
  • Article 172 (1) provides for a similar tenure for the State Legislative Assembly from the date of its first sitting. Tenure of the House cannot be extended beyond five years except in emergency situations.
  • Implementing this measure will require multiple constitutional amendments, amendments to the Representation of People’s Act, and other such laws. It will also require a great deal of political support and understanding.
  • The Election Commission has suggested that the term of LokSabha could commence and end on predetermined dates, and to avoid premature dissolution, no-confidence motions should be moved simultaneously with a confidence motion for the individual hoping to be the next PM.
  • If the House is still dissolved, the President can run the government for the rest of the term — or, if that period is long, fresh elections can be held for a House that would last only for the remaining length of time.
  • Assemblies can, as a one-time measure, be extended or curtailed to align their elections with the LokSabha cycle.
  • Recent Law Commission recommendations also feature some of these suggestions.

Views on Simultaneous elections:

  • By 21stLaw Commission: In its report on 'simultaneous polls' submitted on August 30, 2018, the 21st Law Commission had recommended synchronizing all theAssembly elections with the LokSabha polls.
    • It had suggested extending or curtailing the tenures of the Assemblies, as required, by a constitutional amendment to facilitate holding these Assembly polls with the LokSabha elections in May 2019.
    • It had also said the elections for the states other than those mentioned above could be bunched together and organisedtwo and a half years after the LokSabha polls.
    • If simultaneous elections could not be conducted, the commission recommended that all elections falling due in a calendar year be held together.
    • The commission had recommended replacing the 'no-confidence motion' with a 'constructive vote of no-confidence', where the government might only be removed if there was confidence in an alternative government.
  • By Election Commission:
    • Sunil Arora, the chairman of EC also supported the idea of Simultaneous elections, but for that, political systems of the country will have to take steps to align the life of a state Assembly with the life of Parliament.

Benefits:

  • Cost Reduction: Conducting all elections concurrently would save significant resources spent on separate state and national elections.
  • Single Election Season: Simultaneous polls would streamline the electoral calendar, eliminating frequent disruptions due to elections in different states.
  • Policy Continuity: Advocates argue that the Model Code of Conduct often hampers government initiatives and project announcements, which could be avoided with synchronized elections.

Challenges and Concerns:

  • Complexity: Coordinating elections at various levels of government—national, state, and local—poses logistical and administrative challenges.
  • Dominance of National Parties: Critics suggest that simultaneous polls could favor nationally dominant parties over regional ones, potentially undermining federalism.
  • Government Instability: If any government, whether at the state or national level, were to collapse before its term, it could lead to complicated scenarios and potential governance issues.

 

Way forward
  • One Nation One Election’ is a good idea for Indian polity but its feasibility needs to be thoroughly examined by involving all the stakeholders in debate and discussion. Also, the desired goal of having only one election every five years cannot be achieved overnight in the prevailing circumstances. It has to be achieved in stages.
  • Constitutional amendment(s) can provide for extending or curtailing the term of one or more Legislative Assemblies, say for/by six months or so, wherever it is necessary to achieve the said goal. But it will require unprecedented political will and support.
  • The latest Law Commission report should, therefore, be considered a good place to start the national debate on Simultaneous Elections.
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