With newly elected BJP government's decision to hold simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies is a strong step for centralising polls. But it raises a lot eyebrows. One wonder why the BJP government is attaching considerable importance to it, while a lot of issues like water problems, rising inflation, unemployment are still pending before the nation.
The concept behind 'One Nation, One Election' means conducting the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies’ elections together every five years. But it doesn't include elections to panchayats, state municipalities and by-elections. But such a dramatic concept, needs a constitutional amendment, which will have to be ratified by 50 percent of the states. This will involve the re aligning the Election pattern of India in a manner that elections to the states and the centre synchronise in a common platform. This would mean that the voters will cast their vote for choosing both members of the LS and the state assemblies on a single day and at the same time.
Simultaneous elections are not a new concept to India. They were followed till 1967. But with dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969, followed by the Lok Sabha in December 1970, resulted in a confusion. So state Assemblies and Parliament elections have been held separately. But once again, the idea of simultaneous polls mentioned and gained prominence in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983. But the idea was shelved. Once again, the Law Commission’s Report recommended the idea in 1999. The recent push for the initiative came up before 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the BJP manifesto. Later PM Narendra Modi floated the idea once again in 2016, as a result the Niti Aayog prepared a detailed working report in January 2017 and mentioned certain constitutional amendments needed for the report.
There were two different ideas to conduct simultaneous elections along with 17th Lok Sabha elections. However, both weren't considered. The first proposal was to make the shift to simultaneous polls in a divided and a phased manner. The general elections along few State Assemblies which will be facing elections late 2018 or 2019 and a Union Territory could be consolidated in 2019. While the rest of the states are in the middle of their five-year term. The states were Odisha, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and NCT of Delhi (Union Territory with Legislature) also facing polls in 2019. But for such an electoral implementation there needs to be political consensus and expansion of the term upto 6-8 months. Besides, amendments to the Constitution. Furthermore, elections to the rest of States can be synchronised in the end of 2021. The second proposal involved synchronisation in two sections. First, elections to the 12 State Legislative Assemblies and one Union Territory would be centralised with with 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Next, elections to the remaining State Legislative Assemblies will be synchronised in the end of 2021.
Simultaneous polls will reduce the enormous costs involved in separate elections in the country. This leads to a system that will help ruling parties focus on governance instead of elections. One should observe, around Rs 55,000-60,000 crore was spent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, according to a report presented by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), a not-for-profit organisation. A separate election for each assemblies costs are several thousand crores. This cold be reduced. Moreover, it can greatly improve the voter turnout.
The issues and problems are different in multi ethnic and language country like India. As a result conducting simultaneous elections is likely to affect the judgment of voters in many aspects. Since elections are held once in five years, it can greatly eliminate the government's accountability to the people. But recurring elections can keep politicians and legislators on their toes, so which makes them more responsible and accountable. Moreover, extented period for a state assembly needs to be postponed till the synchronised phase, which may lead to President's rule which is a blow to the federal structure of the country.
The constitution of India has essentially prescribed a federal structure of state goverance. As we are aware that there are several levels of government such as Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha besides, state governments, Municipal Corporations and the Panchayats, which are forms of local governance. As a result the entire power is not concentrated with one government. But One Nation, One Election can lead to such concentration of power in a single hand. So the new government needs to ensure such vast power is not gathered by a single domain through One Nation, One Election.