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Should India Implement “One Nation, One Election?” #opinion

Image Source: North MCD)

The rumour mills are churning in India. There is talk of holding one election for the entire country. What exactly does that mean? It denotes all elections, including the general election, State Assembly elections, and even local elections, would take place at the same time. That's one election for one country. In reality, following independence, elections in India were held all at once. The cycle, however, broke in the 1950s and 1960s. The centre dismissed certain state administrations, while others were dissolved before the end of their terms. As a result, the time became muddled.

However, Prime Minister Modi wishes to alter this. It wants one election for one country. The BJP party pledged this in 2014 and then again in 2019.In its 2014 election platform, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stated its aim to strive towards conducting simultaneous elections for both state assemblies and the Lok Sabha. The Law Commission solicited input from political parties, the Election Commission of India, bureaucrats, and other professionals on the idea for simultaneous elections across the country in December 2022. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently spoken in favour of the concept of 'One Nation, One Election,' emphasising its importance for India. He has contended that India's numerous elections, which occur virtually every month, impede progress and result in wasteful spending. The Prime Minister has also approved this concept several times, but it has never been implemented.

Not until this week did they take off. The government has formed a special committee, which will be led by former President Ram Nath Kovind. What actions will this committee take?

According to reports, it will undertake negotiations with a variety of parties. I'm guessing that signifies political parties and election officials.Previously, a parliamentary standing committee, the Law Commission, and Niti Ayog all investigated and reported on the 'One Nation, One Election' concept. The administration has agreed to call a Special Session of Parliament from September 18-22, boosting the possibility that a law to implement this idea may be submitted during this time. With five states holding elections later this year and the General Elections due for 2024, there is hope that 'One Nation, One Election' may become a reality soon.

If 'One Nation, One Election' is adopted, simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies would be held across India, with voting taking place concurrently. Until 1967, such simultaneous elections were held. However, in 1968 and 1969, certain legislative legislatures were prematurely dissolved, followed by the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 1970, causing a shift in state and national election calendars.

The proposal is not immediate; lawmakers will discuss the report.

1. The issue is, when will this debate take place?

A special session of parliament has been summoned for September 18th to 22nd. According to rumours, one nation, one election might be on the table. The government has not verified anything as of yet; it is just speculation, but if not in September, the report will be submitted at some point, and we must be ready because this is a critical subject.

Elections are the most important aspect of any democracy, and how they are held is as important. So, should the present method be maintained, or should all elections be combined?

Let me start with the advantages and disadvantages. The benefits would undoubtedly save a significant amount of money. The 2019 general election cost around 60,000 crore rupees. During the same year, seven state elections were held, some in April, some in October, and others in November. We could have saved money if we had combined all of them.

The same goes for security troops and election officials. Right now, you must mobilise them several times, but if all elections are held, that will not be necessary if the pieces are held together. The load would be less. The third advantage is a greater emphasis on governance. You run for office once every five years, and that's it. You function perfectly the rest of the time. But you're practically constantly campaigning right now. Chief ministers fly down to their states during elections. The Prime Minister and his government are in the same boat. It's as though countries are perpetually in election mode. You could change it with only one election in one country. Fourth, increased voter turnout. Assume you work in Delhi but cast your vote in Mumbai. You might not be able to travel down for every event.

However, if you do everything all at once, you have a better chance of succeeding. These are the four benefits. The drawback is that regional concerns may be overlooked. Let's face it: general elections garner more attention than state elections. So, if they are all kept together, National concerns may end up dominating Regional matters in India. That might be an issue. There are hundreds of regional parties. The logistics are number two. Simultaneous elections would need the use of additional EVMS electronic voting machines.

Former poll officials estimate that nearly three times as many EVMS would be needed to conduct all elections concurrently. Number three is education. India held simultaneous elections for the first time in the 1960s. As a result, a whole generation is unfamiliar with the concept.

How do you teach them? How can you explain why they're voting twice or three times, or why one vote is for the centre and the other for the state? It might become tricky. Fourth, certain legal ambiguities. What happens if an assembly is prematurely dissolved or a government loses its majority?

2. Will it be President's rule for the rest of the time?

Again, clarity is required.

Having said that, nations such as Belgium, Sweden, Brazil, and South Africa, as well as, to some extent, the United States of America, already hold simultaneous elections. Their presidential elections overlap with congressional elections in the United States. Does this imply that India should follow suit? It's difficult to state that Belgium and Sweden have different systems. They follow proportional representation whereas we follow first past the post. In India, the candidate who receives the most votes wins. That's all there is to it.

Proportional representation does not operate like that. If a party receives 30% of the vote, they receive 30% of the seats. In the United States, there are only two main political parties: Republicans and Democrats. In India, there are six national parties, 54 state parties, and over two thousand unrecognised parties. As a result, copying and pasting may not function. We require an Indian equivalent of simultaneous elections. The majority of political parties agree that it is vital. They differ on how it should be done.

But, in reality, there is only one way: by consensus.On Friday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma lauded PM Modi when discussing 'One Nation, One Election,' saying, "One Nation, One Election is a gift from the Prime Minister."

He went on to say, "Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a historic decision by establishing a commission to investigate the 'One Nation, One Election' issue."

"I am delighted that a person of Ram Nath Kovind's stature has accepted the offer." Multiple elections cost a lot of money, and because India is always in election mode, progress suffers greatly."

He went on to suggest that PM Modi's pick will result in less election expenditure and will transform the country into a 'Vishwaguru'.

"PM Modi has correctly recognised and is advocating that 'One Nation, One Election' takes India to a different level," he continued. Expenditure will be reduced, progress will continue for the next five years, and our nation will be transformed into Vishwaguru."

The opposition INDIA coalition, established to confront the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, has objected to the idea. Leaders such as Shiv Sena UBT faction leader Sanjay Raut have claimed that the country is already unified and that their focus should be on guaranteeing fair elections rather than seeking 'One Nation, One Election.'

The Samajwadi Party's Ramgopal Yadav has called for a full debate on the issue, citing fear that the government may push the decision via a special session without appropriate consideration.

The government is likely to speed the proposal's examination and eventual implementation with the newly formed committee chaired by Former President Kovind.

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