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Prime Minister invited heads of all parties in Parliament to a meeting on June 19 to discuss ‘one nation, one election’. Simultaneous elections entail elections to all the three tiers of the Constitutional institutions taking place in a synchronized manner. What this effectively means is that a voter casts his or her vote for electing members to all the tiers of the Government on the same day.

Why it is required in India:

  • Impact on Governance due to the imposition of Model Code of Conduct: The imposition of MCC puts on hold the entire development program and activities of the Union and State Governments in a poll-bound State. It even affects the normal governance.
  • Impact on delivery of essential services: Holding of political rallies disrupts road traffic and also leads to noise pollution. If simultaneous elections are held, this period of disruption would be limited to a certain predetermined period of time.
  • Financial Implications - Segregated elections take away opportunities to optimize costs and lead to a yearly outflow of public money, significantly.
  • Engagement of security forces for prolonged periods: Conducting elections is a mammoth, complex and time-consuming activity. The Election Commission of India takes the help of a significant number of polling officials as well as armed forces to ensure smooth, peaceful and impartial polls.
  • Mainstreaming Regional Parties - Heterogeneous needs of the nation will get reflected as national parties will be contesting elections focussing on regional issues and regional parties focussing on national issues, thereby bringing the regional parties into mainstream politics and promoting their growth.
  • Electoral compulsions change the focus of policymaking - Short-sighted populist and “politically safe” measures are accorded higher priority over “difficult” structural reforms which may be more beneficial to the public from a longer-term perspective.
  • Frequent elections perpetuate caste, religion and communal issues across the country: Elections are polarising events which have accentuated casteism, communalism, corruption and crony capitalism.

Practical feasibility:

  • Experience from the Past: From 1951-1967, general elections to the House of the People and the State Legislative Assemblies were held simultaneously. However, this practice got disrupted after 1967, due to premature dissolution of some of the Legislative Assemblies.
  • Holding simultaneous elections will bring with it certain requirements as given below;
    • Curtailment and extension of terms of the House of the People/State Legislative Assemblies;
    • Amendment to the relevant provisions of the Constitution
    • Amendment to the Representation of People Act, 1951
    • The ratification by the States to these Constitutional amendments.
  • Law Commission of India had suggested that elections of legislative assemblies whose term ends six months after the general elections to Lok Sabha can be clubbed together.  However, the results of such elections can be declared at the end of the assembly’s tenure.
  • Standing Committee recommended that elections could be held in two phases.  It stated that elections to some Legislative Assemblies could be held during the midterm of Lok Sabha.  Elections to the remaining legislative assemblies could be held with the end of Lok Sabha‟s term.
  • Bye-elections to all seats that become vacant during a year may be conducted together during a predetermined time period.
  • Constitution does provide an option to achieve the object of synchronization of the elections, voluntarily by virtue of the phrase ”unless sooner dissolved‟ and not by operation of law; but as far as the enhancement of the term is concerned, that will be possible only with an amendment to the Constitution.
  • Empowering Parliament - For the purpose of synchronization of elections, the Union Parliament may be empowered to extend or curtail the term(s) of some of the State Legislative Assemblies, as needed, for an appropriate period(s). This could be achieved by making necessary amendment(s) to Article 172 of the Constitution or by inserting a new clause to that Article, enabling the Union Parliament to bring about the desired extension/curtailment of the State Legislative Assemblies for synchronizing elections.
  • If simultaneous elections cannot be conducted, then all elections falling due in a calendar year should be conducted together. This option will also require amendments to the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • Replacing the ‘no-confidence motion’ with a ‘constructive vote of no-confidence’, through appropriate amendments.  In a constructive vote of no confidence, the government may only be removed if there is confidence in an alternative government.
  • Appropriate amendments are made to provide that any new Lok Sabha/Assembly formed after midterm elections, be constituted only for the remainder of the previous term, and not the entire five years.
  • Simultaneous elections, in one form or the other, do exist in various parts of the world. Countries like the Philippines, Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua et al, follow a system of simultaneous elections.
Read Also: Election Commission’s – Model Code Of Conduct

Challenges in its implementation:

  • Operational feasibility / Do-ability: Law Commission has noted that simultaneous elections cannot be held within the existing framework of the Constitution.  Simultaneous elections may be conducted through appropriate amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.  The Commission also suggested that at least 50% of the states should ratify the constitutional amendments.
  • Impact to voter behavior:  Simultaneous elections could lead to – a) National issues impacting electorate’s behavior for voting in State Assembly elections; or b) State issues impacting electorate’s behavior for voting in Lok Sabha elections. As a result, voter behavior gets influenced and he/she may vote for the same political party, which in most cases may be larger national parties.
  • Weaken the federal democratic structure - Simultaneous elections would benefit larger national parties at the cost of state/regional parties in case of a “national wave in favor of large national parties”.
  • Reduced Accountability - Having to face the electorate more than once every 5 year enhances the accountability of politicians and keeps them on their toes.
  • No-Confidence Motion: Constitutionality of this provision under Article 83(2) of the Constitution will be challenging in implementation of simultaneous elections as it gives power to opposition for ensuring the accountability of executives towards Parliament.
  • Anti-Federalism: “One nation, one election” runs against the grain of our Westminster-style federal political union. It 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.
  • Synchronization of Local Bodies: The third tier institutions are a state subject and their number in the country is significantly large, therefore it is impractical to synchronize and align election schedules to the third tier with that of Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.
  • Premature Dissolution: Many times a government is dissolved prematurely, so in the long run having a mismatch in elections is inevitable. E.g. In 1998, the Lok Sabha got dissolve in just 13 days.
  • Lack of Resources: The issue of logistics and dearth of security personnel, election, and administrative officials to conduct simultaneous elections throughout the country in one go will be a major challenge.
Risk of “premature dissolution” of the Lok Sabha or assembly can disturb the conduct of simultaneous elections”. Proposal for simultaneous elections is incomplete without addressing how to make it sustainable over the longer term. However, in order to start synchronization of the elections, the option of holding the election in phases, as a one-time measure may be viable. Source Read More Articles: The Aftermath of a Nasty Election Nagaland Tribe Boycott Civic Election