According to sources cited by PTI on September 1st, the government has established a committee chaired by former President of India, Ram Nath Kovind. This committee’s objective is to investigate the feasibility of implementing the concept of ‘One Nation, One Election.’
Interestingly, this development coincides with an announcement made by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, who revealed that the government has scheduled a special five-day session of Parliament from September 18th to 22nd, 2023.
The announcement did not provide any official details about the purpose of the special session, which is scheduled shortly after the G20 Summit. “As we enter the auspicious Amrit Kaal, we anticipate productive discussions and debates in Parliament,” Pralhad Joshi stated on X (formerly known as Twitter).
Following the announcement, there has been widespread speculation regarding the potential agenda for the upcoming five-day special session. Among the speculated agenda items is the dissolution of the current Parliament and the announcement of early Lok Sabha elections, as reported by the news agency ANI.
Additionally, some political circles are also considering the possibility that the session may center around the ‘One Nation, One Election’ initiative.
What is ‘One Nation One Election’?
The “One Nation, One Election” concept in India strives to align the electoral cycles of the Lok Sabha (India’s lower house of Parliament) and all state assemblies. This concept envisions conducting these elections concurrently, either on a single day or within a defined time period.
Over the years, Prime Minister Modi has been a staunch advocate for the idea of conducting Lok Sabha and state assembly elections simultaneously. The decision to entrust Kovind with this task underscores the government’s commitment to this proposal, especially with several elections on the horizon.
The assembly elections in five states are slated for November or December of this year, to be followed by the Lok Sabha elections, expected to take place in May-June 2024.
However, recent government actions have introduced the possibility of advancing the general elections and some state polls that were originally scheduled to coincide with the Lok Sabha contest, as reported by PTI.
Benefits of ‘One Nation One Election’
1. The key advantage of ‘One Nation, One Election’ is the significant cost reduction associated with conducting elections, as each separate election demands substantial financial resources.
2. As per the Law Commission, conducting simultaneous elections is expected to boost voter turnout because it will be more convenient for people to cast multiple ballots at once, as reported by India Today.
3. Simultaneous elections would alleviate the workload on administrative and security forces, who are otherwise frequently tasked with election duties on multiple occasions.
4. According to reports, the implementation of ‘One Nation, One Election’ would allow the government to prioritize governance over constantly being in election mode, a situation that often hinders policy implementation.
Drawbacks of ‘One Nation One Election’
1. To implement ‘One Nation, One Election,’ modifications to the Constitution and other legal frameworks would be necessary. This concept would necessitate a constitutional amendment, followed by approval from state assemblies. While it is not a new concept, having occurred four times in the 1950s and 1960s, it’s worth noting that India had fewer states and a smaller voting population during those instances, as reported by ANI sources.
2. Furthermore, there is concern that regional matters could be eclipsed by national issues, potentially influencing the electoral results at the state level.
3. Securing the agreement of all political parties presents a significant challenge, especially given the opposition’s stance against ‘One Nation One Election.’
Who are the Panel Members?
The committee will be chaired by former President Ram Nath Kovind and include members such as Home Minister Amit Shah, former Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Chairman of the Finance Commission N. K. Singh, former Lok Sabha Secretary-General Subhash C. Kashyap, former CV Commissioner Sanjay Kothari, and senior advocate Harish Salve.
The Law Minister, Arjun Ram Meghwal, will participate in the committee meetings as a special invitee, while the Law Secretary, Niten Chandra, will serve as the panel’s secretary.
What will be the Panel’s role or Job?
As per the government notification, the panel will be assigned the following responsibilities:
- Please propose specific amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act, 1950, the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the associated rules to facilitate the conduct of simultaneous elections.
- Recommend a framework for coordinating elections, including proposing phases and a timeline for conducting simultaneous elections if holding them all at once is not feasible. Additionally, suggest amendments to the Constitution and other relevant laws and propose necessary rules for such scenarios.
- Suggest essential safeguards to maintain the continuity of the simultaneous elections cycle and propose amendments to the Constitution to ensure that this cycle remains uninterrupted.
- Evaluate the logistical and manpower needs, including Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs), and so on, for conducting such simultaneous elections.
- Assess and propose the methods for utilizing a unified electoral roll and electoral identity cards as a means of voter identification in elections for the Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, municipal elections, and panchayat elections.
- Examine and provide suggestions for potential solutions in situations where simultaneous elections arise due to a hung House, the adoption of a no-confidence motion, defections, or any other related events.
The motivation behind organizing simultaneous elections is to put an end to the incessant cycle of elections in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently championed the idea of simultaneous elections at all levels of government.
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He has pointed to the substantial financial strain caused by nearly continuous election cycles and their adverse effects on development initiatives as the primary justification for this proposal.
Advocates of this concept argue that conducting simultaneous polls can lead to significant time and cost savings, allowing governments to dedicate five uninterrupted years to governance without the constant distraction of election campaigns.