Polity & Governance Prelims cum Mains

PM calls meet on ‘one nation, one poll’

In News:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited heads of all parties in Parliament to discuss ‘one nation, one election’.
  • They will also discuss celebrations of 75 years of Independence in 2022 and 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary this year.

 

One Nation One Poll: It is the method of holding single elections for both Lok Sabha and States instead of separate and continuous elections.

 

History and Culture of Elections In India

  • The first general elections to Lok Sabha and all State Legislative Assemblies were held together in 1951-52, which practice  continued over three  subsequent general  elections held in the years-1957, 1962 and 1967.
  • However, due to the premature dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in  1968 and  1969,  the  cycle  got  disrupted for  the  first
  • In 1970, the fourth Lok Sabha was itself dissolved prematurely and fresh elections held in 1971 while the term of the fifth Lok Sabha was extended till 1977 under Article 352.
  • As a result of all such premature dissolutions and extension, the cycle of simultaneous elections has been firmly disrupted.
  • As the constitution lacks an explicit statement in favour of simultaneous elections, the rise of coalition governments and multi-party system has given rise to the existing electoral conditions of continuous elections.

 

Background:

  • The idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’ was suggested by the Election Commission in 1983.
  • Later in 1999, the Law Commission in its 170th report headed suggested that India go back to the concept of simultaneous elections.
  • In 2002, the report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) highlighted that amendments with respect to simultaneous elections could be done without disturbing the basic structure of the constitution.
  • The 255th Law Commission report also discussed amendment to Anti-Defection Law, which is an important subject with respect to simultaneous elections.
  • The idea was also favoured by the 79th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2015) and NITI Ayog paper (2017).

Need for holding simultaneous elections:

  • Save Time and Energy: A lot of money and time is being spent on elections. The money could be put to better use. The focus will shift from winning elections to actual governance.
  • Reduce Policy Paralysis: It would reduce policy paralysis that results from the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election time;
  • Reduction in impact of service delivery: Frequent electoral cycles disrupt normal public life by impacting the delivery of essential services and also provide opportunities to unscrupulous elements to create tears in the social fabric of society. Thus simultaneous election will reduce such instances.
  • Address resource constraints: It would reduce burden on crucial manpower and resources that are deployed during election time.
  • Better governance and administrative efficiency: Holding simultaneous elections will ensure consistency, continuity and governance, and elections then will only be the means to achieve this and not an end in themselves.
  • Curbing corruption: Simultaneous elections can also be a means to curb corruption and build a more conducive socio-economic ecosystem.

 

Challenges:

  • Operational Feasibility: Implementing simultaneous polls would require a substantial shift from the status quo and would involve amendments to the Constitution and election-related laws. The term of some state assemblies will be curtailed, in some cases there will be a need to advance the elections or postpone them.
  • Impact to  voter  behavior: This situation  could  lead  to
    • National issues  impacting  electorate’s  behavior  for voting  in  State  Assembly  elections;  or
    • State issues impacting  electorate’s behavior  for  voting  in  Lok  Sabha

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.

  • Less accountable political parties: Having to face electorate more than once every 5 year enhances the accountability of politicians and keeps them on their toes. Thus politicians will visit voters only once in five years and voters cannot hold politicians accountable.
  • Reduction in employment related to election: Many jobs  are  created  during  elections,  boosting  the  economy  at the grass-root levels, which might get hampered due to one election.

Way Forward:

  • A focused  group  of  stakeholders comprising  constitution  and  subject  matter  experts,  government  officials  and representatives of  various  political  parties should come  together  and  work  out  appropriate implementation  related
  • Implementing this  measure  would  cause  some short-term  pain but this  would  be  a  stepping  stone  towards  improved  governance and a larger initiation of electoral reforms.

 

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