‘One Nation One Poll’: Benefits are More for India

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Before we discuss the Pros and Cons of One Nation, one election, let us first know What is One Nation, One Poll. The concept of ‘One Nation, One Election’ means conducting simultaneous polls across the country for Lok Sabha, the lower House of Parliament and all the State Assemblies - Vidhan Sabha at the same time. So far, the General Elections in India are separately conducted to elect the members of Parliament and State Assemblies in accordance with the tenure of the incumbent government coming to an end or when it is dissolved for one or other reason. As such the query, what is one nation, one poll is broadly explained now.

 

Since the idea of one nation-one Poll is to synchronize the Lok Sabha elections conducted pan-India and the State Legislative Assembly elections so that they take place together once in every five years, it would save the nation from being drained of money, resources and manpower due to frequent elections. 

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‘One Nation one Poll’ is not a new idea in India. The first 4-5 elections held in India after Independence followed this notion and were successfully conducted across the country. Now to avoid the multiplicity of election dates and expenses for Parliament and Assembly elections which are conducted separately, presently the NDA government is thinking to go for practice of “one nation one election”. 

Back Ground: Need for One Nation One Election

The idea of “One Nation One Election” is not new for India. India had the system of One Nation One Election and implemented it during the general elections held in 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967. This practice was discontinued in 1968-69, on the grounds that some Legislative Assemblies were broken up due to different reasons. From that point India has been making a decent attempt to embrace the old election system but there is no consensus among the political parties.

 

During the past few years, it has been observed that every now and then elections are happening in one or other state of India. The State Administration and Election Commission of India have to connect with its assets, labor to conduct the election. India is known as the largest democratic country of the world and the general elections of Lok Sabha and state assemblies are supposed to be conducted after every five years, unless there are mid-term polls due to dissolution of Lok Sabha or State Assembly for any reason.

Idea of ‘One Nation, One Poll’: Buzz is High Since 2014

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led by the Prime Minister Narendra Damodar das Modi came to power in India in 2024 sweeping Lok Sabha Polls across the country and the feat was repeated in 2019 as well. The Prime Minister Modi and his party BJP have been ardent advocate of the idea ‘One Nation, One Poll’ since coming to power in 2014. Modi’s idea is to conduct simultaneous polls not only for Lok Sabha and all the State Legislative Assemblies (Vidhan Sabha) but also for local bodies like Nagar Nigam, Panchayat, Zila Parishad among others. In view of Prime Minister Modi it will substantially reduce the financial burden on exchequer as there is almost a continuous election cycle going on in the country in one or other state which also is an obstacle to the development work during the polling period.

Government Forms Committee on ‘One Nation, One Election’

On Friday, September 1, 2023, Government of India has set up a Committee headed by former President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind to explore the possibility of 'one nation, one poll'. If India goes for simultaneous elections for its assemblies and the Lok Sabha, it will be part of a group of countries that hold concurrent polls. 

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Confirming the formation of Committee on ‘One Nation, One Election’, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said “Right now, a committee has been constituted. A report of the committee will come out which will be discussed. The Parliament is mature, and discussions will take place, there is no need to get nervous...India is called the mother of democracy, there is evolution…I will discuss the agenda of the Special session of Parliament"

Parliament to Hold Special 5 Day Session

Government of India has called a special 5 day session from September 18 to 22, 2023. However, it is not clear whether the Agenda include the tabling of ‘One Nation, One Poll’, bill in parliament or it will discuss other emergent issues which could not be discussed and passed in the Monsoon session 2023 due to the disruptions and waste of three days which saw discussions from minority opposition benches and responses from treasury benches on No Confidence Motion against the  Prime Minister of India, Shri Modi.

 

But there are speculations that the government is planning to introduce "One Nation, One Election" bill in Parliament. Besides, the speculations about early Lok Sabha election are also rife as the announcement of committee formation came only a day after Centre called a special session of Parliament.

One Nation, One Poll Bill in Parliament

In 2015, the government asked the election commission whether one nation one election was possible, to which the EC responded “Yes it is and we can do it if the constitution is amended’ and amendments are made in Representation of the People Act, 1951." If the committee finds it feasible to go for One Nation, One Election’ concept and Government introduces a bill to this effect in Parliament, following amendments in Constitution are required according to Experts:

Constitutional Amendments by Parliament

Former Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said that it was possible and all that is needed is an amendment in the Constitution, “"Framers of the Constitution had kept the provision of One Nation One Election in the law and in the Constitution. In 1952, 1957, 1962, and 1967, both state assembly and nation happened together. Since 1967, it started going out of sync and started the phenomenon round the year election. The election commission had in the year 1982-83 put forward a suggestion to bring an amendment (to the relevant law) so that one nation one election can again be held simultaneously.”

 

As such, the Government has to introduce the One Nation, One Poll Bill in Parliament with amendments in following Articles of Constitution:

  • Article 83: It states that the term of the LokSabha will be five years from the date of its first sitting.
  • Article 85: It empowers the President to dissolve the LokSabha.
  • 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 authorizes the Central Government to impose President’s Rule for failure of constitutional machinery in the State.
  • Besides, The Representation of the People Act as well as related parliamentary procedure will also need to be amended. To Synchronise 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.

One Nation, One Poll - Pros and Cons

If India is able to counter the challenges and implements the idea of One Nation, one poll, more benefits will be there. Let’s discuss below the One Nation, One Poll – Pros and Cons

Positives: One Nation One Poll: Benefits are More

Key advantages of implementing ‘One Nation, One Poll, are:

Saving the Public Money

The greatest rationale in the support of the simultaneous election is the saving of government money. If the country goes for “One Nation One Election” it will save huge amount of money. There are 4120 MLAs in the 31 states and UTs and the use limit for assembly election is Rs.28 lacks. It implies that absolute expense would be somewhere around Rs.11 billon. Normally around 5 states go for elections each year.

 

The idea therefore, promises cutting of expenditure on elections which is significant considering its context in a country like India where elections involve an astronomical amount of money. 

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Improvement in Economy with Money Saved

The money saved will help the Government to keep the focus on improving the slowing down economy, healthcare, education, condition of farmers and not on rallies to be conducted for elections which is conducted in half a dozen states every now and then. 

Will Help Speed up Development Work

Code of Conduct during election period is imposed and it happens every now and then in one or other state. When the Model Code of Conduct is in force, new projects for public welfare cannot be launched. Accordingly, one time election will ensure continuity in policies, projects and programmes of the central and state governments.

Getting Rid of False Promises

Vote bank appeasement becomes the buzz word during elections. With elections around the corner ,most political parties resort to contrivances to win or devastate reputation of different parties. They devise strategies just those which would win a bit leeway for the vote bank and help in winning elections. People are sick of this sort of submission as these lawmakers prevent the passage of long-term useful polices but promote which give them dividends.

Effective Governance

If elections are not held frequently, the administration will go ahead with worthwhile plans and development based projects instead of election season focused plans. Even state and central government need not prepare lucrative budget with sops every year and they can take decisions for the development of economy.

Social Welfare Focused Government Functioning

Delays in Government working can be stopped which is caused by repeated conduct of elections. Exchequer incurs colossal labor and money to conduct free and fair elections in the country and states. One Nation One Election concept will help the Schools and universities open on time; educators to work without fear of vacation every now and then. This will have positive on the life of overall population.

Constraints: Challenges in Implementation of ‘One Nation, One Poll’

The Obstacles in Implementation are

Passing of Bill in Parliament

The passing of the bill for one nation one election will require backing of at least half of the members of both the houses of parliament. If it is passed in lower house, it needs nod from upper house also.

Corruption by Those in Power

Elections are the greatest mediums for the people to get their voices heard and if the major ones are conducted only once in five years the masses will fear of being ignored by the executive who will gain greater power after the system is implemented.

All State Assembly Elections: A Gigantic Task

Another major drawback will be the need to conduct all the state assembly elections simultaneously as well, once the Legislative is dissolved which might prove needless yet mandatory.

 

There are multiple logistical challenges in conducting polls simultaneously for the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies. Though they might be conducted in multiple phases, simultaneous elections would need high number of manpower to be deployed around the same time at a stretch. It would also require greater numbers of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines among others.

Non Co-Operation by Opposition Parties

As it can be clearly seen the plan does hold promise but to implement it successfully the government must fully follow its marketed tagline of ‘Sabka saath Sabka vikaas’ as this system can’t be smoothly executed without the collaboration of the other parties fighting to save their identities.

Opposition Parties are Against the Idea of ‘One nation, one Poll’

The idea, as expected was not well received by the opposition parties striving hard to save their identity in this Modi dominated era. An all party meeting called on by Narendra Modi earlier, was attended by only 21 parties. Eleven major parties in the political front of India including Indian National Congress voiced their opinion against this ambitious proposal by skipping the all party meeting on the issue.

 

Opposition parties have spoken against the ‘one nation, one election’ saying that BJP is afraid of new opposition alliance named ‘I.N.D.I.A. which is why the Government is making this move. Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said, “The country is already one, is anyone questioning that? We demand fair election, not 'one nation one election'. This funda of 'one nation one election' is being brought to divert the attention from our demand of fair election." 

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Congress leader Bhai Jagtap contended, “There is an imperative need for a lot of discussion on this (one nation, one election). However, this proves that BJP is afraid of I.N.D.I.A. which is why they made this move."

New Government Serious on the Issue

If there is any government in the recent years that can successfully implement the idea of one nation-one election by amending the constitution in the largest democracy of the world, it is the present BJP government which retained power with a tally of over 300 seats in the Loksabha polls 2019.

 

Since coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Modi has been a strong votary for the idea of simultaneous polls, which include those at local bodies, citing financial burden caused by almost continuous election cycle and jolt to development work during the polling period. Former President Shri Ram Nath Kovind too had echoed Modi's view and expressed his support to the idea after becoming President in 2017.

 

The vision of the party in power - Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) under the leadership of the country’s Prime-Minister Mr. Narendra Modi is also to set the platform for a development mindset as this system is supposed to set free politicians, government officials and the state resources from the hassle of organizing elections in different parts of the country every year now and then and completely direct the government machinery on solid groundwork rather than needless formalities.

Solution: How India can Achieve Big with ‘One Nation, One Poll’

The challenges and obstacles can be over come to implement the ambitious ‘One Nation, one Election’ Plan. As of now only three countries in the world Belgium, Sweden and South Africa conduct simultaneous elections. So, there are no significant examples of countries with a similar federal parliamentary system conducting simultaneous elections like the one proposed by the one nation-one election agenda. The Bharatiya Janata Party has never been averse to change and now making all out efforts to make this plan a reality. It is something the world has never seen and it does pose a few problems as well but if implemented to perfection we might actually see a new resurgent India. 

 

The solutions to various obstacles in implementing ‘One Nation, One Poll’ can be overcome by adopting following solutions

  • One solution is inviting the second or the third leading person in the house or the leader of a political party to form the government or the House being given the opportunity to elect its leader, in case the government falls before completing its term.
  • Other solution is to amend the constitution to a certain extent and provide that any assembly whose term is ending within the six months to the Lok Sabha elections, after or before, the election for it can happen with that of the Lok Sabha.
  • Another solution is to switch to the Presidential form of Government where the President is not accountable to the House. In America, the Election Day is fixed. After every four years, the Tuesday that falls after the first Monday in the month of November is the Election Day for the seat of the President and the Vice President. Similarly, the dates for holding the elections for the House of Representative and the Senate, are also fixed. The dates are between 2nd and 8th of the month of November. By law, these dates have been fixed.

There is no doubt that implementation of the ‘One Nation One Election’ will involve some logistical costs. But there will be huge saving on reduced election expenditure and would result in net savings. if India opts for ‘one nation, one election’, the world’s biggest democracy will set another unique example.

 

We hope that this detailed solved GD topic on ‘One Nation, one Poll’ must have added a few new ideas with positive group discussion opportunity. This will help you to sail through the GD process in final selection round of B-schools 

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