The Union government has constituted a panel led by former President Ram Nath Kovind to study the “one nation, one election” proposal years after government think tank NITI Aayog backed the idea of simultaneous state and national polls to remove impediments to governance, policy making, and developmental activities.
The development comes a day after the government called a special session of Parliament between September 18 and 22, the agenda for which is under wraps.
The panel has been formed to not only explore the viability of bringing a legislation soon in this regard but also reach out to other political parties for a consensus and smooth passage of the legislation.
Over the years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pushed strongly for the idea of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls, and the decision to task Kovind to look into it underscores the government's seriousness as a host of elections approaches.
Assembly polls are due in five states- Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Rajasthan- in November-December and they are scheduled to be followed by the Lok Sabha elections in May-June next year.
Other Members of the Committee
The other members of the committee are ;Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress Party Member of Parliament Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, former Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, jurist Harish Salve, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Sanjay Kothari, ex-chairman of Finance Commission N K Singh and former secretary general of Lok Sabha Subhash C Kashyap have been appointed are other members of the committee.
What is ‘One Nation One Election’?
- The concept of "One Nation, One Election" is to conduct elections for the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India's Parliament) and all state assemblies at one time.
- The idea is to hold these elections simultaneously, either on a single day or within a specific time frame.
Pros of ‘One Nation One Election’
- Reduction in the cost of conducting elections as each separate election requires a huge amount of financial resources.
- As per ADR in recent 2019 elections, 610 political parties contested and the expense was 60,000 crores.
- Frequent elections not only impose a huge burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of the model code of conduct.
- Ease the burden on administrative and security forces, who otherwise are engaged multiple times in election duties.
- The government can focus more on governance rather than being in an election mode, which often hampers policy implementation.
- According to the Law Commission, it will increase voter turnout because it will be easier for people to cast many ballots at once.
Cons of ‘One Nation One Election’
- One Nation – One Election would need a constitutional amendment. It will not only needs to be passed by special majority by each house of the Parliament but also the approval of at least half of the state legislature in the country.
- Article 83 of the Constitution provides for the tenure of both Houses (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) of the Parliament.
- Article 172 provides for five year tenure for the State Legislative Assembly from the date of its first sitting.
- It is not a new concept having taken place four times in the 1950’s and 60's but India has fewer states and a smaller population that could vote.
- There is worry that regional issues might get overshadowed by the national issues, affecting the electoral outcome at the state level.
- The agreement among all political parties is a significant hurdle as opposition parties have opposed the ‘One Nation One Election.’
NOTE: Independent India's tryst with democracy began with simultaneous elections, which were held between October 25, 1951, and February 21, 1952 -- an exercise of over 100 days. The elections were held for State assemblies as well as the Lok Sabha.
However, as States were restructured and assemblies were prematurely disbanded, this set-up started falling apart.
Nonetheless, simultaneous elections were held in 1957, 1962 and 1967.
In 1970, the Lok Sabha was itself dissolved prematurely and fresh elections were held in 1971.
By 1972, the synchronised election trend had been broken and almost no State election coincided with the general election for the Lok Sabha.
- The Law Commission, headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy, in its 170th Report in May 1999, had stated: “The cycle of elections every year, and in the out of season, should be put an end to. We must go back to when the elections to the Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies were held at once. The rule ought to be: one election once in five years for Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies."
- The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice headed by Dr EM Sudarsana Natchiappan 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 support for the simultaneous elections.
- Law Commission draft report (2018), Justice B S Chauhan was the chairperson of Law Commission, said, "Simultaneous elections could not be held within the existing framework of the Constitution.
- They may be conducted to Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies through appropriate amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and state Assemblies."
- The Commission had also suggested that at least 50% of the states should ratify the constitutional amendments.