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One nation, One election

                                                                       (Photo: Think India)

“One nation, one election”, might sound good as well as appealing, but it will have a number of anti-democratic consequences. It’s true saying that simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and State Assembly could save time, energy and money of our country, but on the other side it can prove to be harmful for our country as well as democracy.

Apart from logical considerations, which cannot be a serious reason for a major change to the basic structure of the Indian polity, the most seductive argument in favor of simultaneous elections is the allure of Modi’s phrase, “One nation, one election.” This matches the “one nation, one tax” rationale for the goods and services tax (GST), which, of course, came into force via its own constitutional amendment on 1 July, 2017.

While one can debate the economic costs and benefits of GST, the analogy with elections is logically flawed. Indeed, the concept of simultaneous elections fundamentally runs against the grin of our Westminster-style federal political union. “One nation, one election” would make sense if India were a unitary state. But we are a union of states, which is philosophically and politically an essentially different conception of the Indian nation-state. With this, let us discuss the disadvantages of holding simultaneous elections in India:

  • Rule by the majority is the cardinal principle of Indian democracy. The concept of simultaneous elections goes against this principle since if elections are held simultaneously then the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies cannot be dissolved before completing their full period of 5 years even if the ruling party is reduced to a minority hence it will go against the federal principles.
  •  It will disown today's reality of fragmented quality at the state level where coalitions are the order of the day. So, simultaneous elections try to bring in the presidential type of governance where the state assembly is no longer can decide their own path and have to be in existence for 5 years with a minority party in power.
  • Even if elections were to take place simultaneously, parties contesting in only one state would anyway be similarly burdened. So, it probably takes care of only national parties. And the logistic requirement of movement of the requisite security forces. This constant would remain even if simultaneous elections were held.

So, it can be said that holding simultaneous elections is certainly desirable but not feasible. The question which arises is, "Why should the states suffer from the electoral decisions taken at the centre?" It has been said that simultaneous elections would curtail government expenditure but the election commission has updated that for this it would require the procurement of 24 lakh EVMs and an equal number of VVPAT units which is double the number required to hold only parliamentary polls. So, the first objective is not met.

Therefore, notwithstanding the benefits of simultaneous elections highlighted above, the cost to the Indian democracy in terms of playing havoc with the cardinal principle of rule by the majority will be far more than any savings to be realized to the public exchequer. Rather other alternatives should be explored to reduce election-related expenses like state funding of elections, decriminalization of politics, bringing in transparency in political funding by linking Aadhaar card to the election Identity card which has still not been done, etc.





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