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One nation one election

The concept of 'One Nation, One Election' centers around the idea of conducting simultaneous elections throughout the country for both Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

This means holding elections for both the Lok Sabha and all state assemblies simultaneously, with voting likely taking place concurrently.

The idea has been around since at least 1983, when the Election Commission first mooted it. However, until 1967, simultaneous elections were the norm in India.

The first General Elections to the House of People (Lok Sabha) and all State Legislative Assemblies were held simultaneously in 1951-52.
That practice continued in 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.

In 1970, the Lok Sabha was itself dissolved prematurely and fresh elections were held in 1971. Thus, the First, Second and Third Lok Sabha enjoyed full five-year terms.

As a result of premature dissolutions and extension of terms of both the Lok Sabha and various State Legislative Assemblies, there have been separate elections to Lok Sabha and States Legislative Assemblies, and the cycle of simultaneous elections has been disturbed.

Central idea behind "one nation one election "
The central idea behind One nation, One election is to synchronize the timing of Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections across all States to reduce the frequency of polls throughout the country.

This concept was the practice till 1967, but it was disrupted due to various reasons such as defections, dismissals, and dissolutions of government.
The cycle was first broken in 1959 after the Centre invoked Article 356 to dismiss the then-Kerala government.

Subsequently, due to defections and counter defections between parties, several Legislative Assemblies dissolved post-1960, which eventually led to separate polls for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

Currently, the assembly polls in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha are held together with the Lok Sabha elections.
The Idea of conducting simultaneous elections was advocated in 1999 by the Law Commission headed by BP Jeevan Reddy.

Reasoning and need
According to an estimate deliberated in a parliamentary panel discussion, elections to the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies cost the Election Commission of India more than Rs 4,500 crore.

This is besides the declared and undeclared poll expenses by candidates and political parties. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its 79th report on "Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Elections to the House of People (Lok Sabha) and State Assemblies, 2015" recommended holding of polls in two phases, which it said was a more practical method of approaching the subject.

The first phase could be held in November 2016, said the report, which was tabled the previous year. Polls to all state legislatures whose terms end before or after a time period of six months to one year from the election
date, could be brought together.

So, the parliamentary panel was of the view that the term of some assemblies would have to be shortened, while the remaining could be extended in order to hold simultaneous elections.

High level committee on 'ONE NATION ONE ELECTION '
Government has constituted an eight member high level committee to examine One nation, One election. Former President Ram Nath Kovind has been appointed as Chairman of the committee.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Former Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Former Chairman 15th Finance Commission N. K. Singh and others are appointed as the members of the committeee. Law and Justice Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal will attend the meetings of the committee as special invitee. The elections to the House of the People and Legislative Assemblies of States were mostly held simultaneously from 1951-52 to 1967 after which this cycle got broken.

The high level committee will examine and make recommendation for holding simultaneous elections of Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, Municipalities and Panchayats, keeping in view the existing framework under the Constitution and other statutory provisions. It will examineand recommend, if the amendments to the Constitution would require ratification by the States.They will also suggest a framework for synchronisation of elections and specifically, suggest the phases and time frame within which simultaneous elections may be held. The committee will also examine the logistics and manpower required, including EVMs and VVPATs for holding simultaneous elections.

Arguments in favour of ONE NATION ONE ELECTION
NITI Aayog paper says that the country has at least one election each year; actually, each state has an election every year, too. In that paper, NITI Aayog argued that multiple elections incurs many direct and indirect disadvantages.

Incalculable Economic Costs of Elections: Directly budgeted costs are around Rs 300 crore for a state the size of Bihar.

However, there are other financial costs, and incalculable economic costs.Each election means government machinery misses out on their regular duties due to election duty and related work.

These costs of the millions of man-hours used are not charged to the election budget.

Policy Paralysis: The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) also affects the government's functionary, as nonew significant policy can be announced and executed after the elections are announced.

Administrative Costs: There are also huge and visible costs of deploying security forces and transporting them, repeatedly.

A bigger invisible cost is paid by the nation in terms of diverting these forces from sensitive areas and in terms of the fatigue and illnesses that repeated cross-country deployments bring about.

Federal Problem: Simultaneous elections are almost nearly impossible to implement, as it would mean arbitrarily curtailing or extending the term of existing legislatures to bring their election dates in line with the due date for the rest of the country.
Such a measure would undermine democracy and federalism.

Against Spirit of Democracy: Critics also say that forcing simultaneous elections is against democracy because trying to force an artificial cycle of elections and restricting the choice for voters is not correct.

Regional Parties At Disadvantage: Regional parties are supposed to be at a disadvantage because in simultaneously held elections, voters are reportedly
likely to predominantly vote one way, giving the dominant party at the Centre an advantage.

Diminished Accountability: Having to face the electorate more than once every 5 years enhances the accountability of politicians and keeps them on their toes.

Is the Election Commission equipped to handle single elections?
The Election Commission of India, in its own examination of the issue earlier, felt that side-by- side polls would demand massive investment in Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. The infrastructure upgrade for conducting simultaneous polls would run up a bill of crores.

The latest committee would also look into the aspect of manpower and logistics required, including EVMs, VVPATs, etc, for holding such simultaneous polls; ascertain the modalities of use of a single electoral roll and electoral identity cards for identification of voters in polls to the Lok Sabha, assemblies, municipalities and panchayats.

Has any other country with a federal structure tried this?
Similar electoral arrangements are in place in South Africa, Sweden and the tenure of Parliament in the UK is determined by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, 2011. In South Africa, national as well as provincial legislature elections are held simultaneously for five years. Sweden has a fixed date for holding polls to the 'Riksdag', the national legislature, 'Landsting', the provincial legislature/ county council, and 'Kommunfullmaktige', the local bodies/municipal assemblies. They have a common term of four years. In fact, some of the global practices have been examined previously by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its 79th report.

Constitutional aspects for ONE NATION ONE ELECTION
As per the recommendations of the Law Commission, it would necessitate at least fiveconstitutional amendments: in Articles 83, 85, 172, 174, and 356. The Law Commission's 2018 draft report on simultaneous elections also suggested that at least 50 per cent of the States should ratify the constitutional amendments.

Among these, Article 174 deals with the dissolution of State Assemblies while the key Article 356 is concerned with the imposition of President's Rule in States.

Hence, the current committee will have to examine and recommend whether the amendments to the Constitution require ratification by the States and analyse and recommend a possible solution in a scenario of simultaneous elections emerging out of a hung House. It will have to examine how issues such as adoption of a no-confidence motion, or defection, or other such event impact the idea.

Besides, the committee will suggest a framework for synchronisation of elections; specifically, it will suggest the phases and time frame within which simultaneous elections may be held. Safeguards will also be required to ensure the continuity of the cycle of simultaneous elections.

Reactions and Opinions
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said that once the committee submits its report, it will be discussed in the public domain and Parliament.He said "There is nothing to be nervous about, as discussions will be held. We are the world's largest democracy and we are known as the mother of democracy. This is the evolution of democracy in the mother of democracy.

Chief Election Commissioner of India Rajiv Kumar said that the Commission is ready to conduct elections as per legal provisions.

Calling it a "total eyewash", committee's member Chowdhury said he cannot be part of the committee, as the "terms of reference" of the committee "have been prepared in a manner to guarantee its conclusions."Congress leader P.Chidambaram said that the government was accelerating the process with the appointment of a "puppet committee." He said that by combining national and state elections, the BJP hopes to win the Lok Saba poll with a two-third majority and win enough states.

Former law minister Kapil Sibal said that:
"One Nation One Election will be the downfall of the Modi government". He said the Modi government is playing with fire and they will not simply singe their hands but destruct the government.

Alternative option:
The current government especially our Prime Minister has been pushing for One Nation One Election . The main reason why they are pushing for this is that they believe since every few months there are elections. The central government is notable to perform due to the Model Code of Conduct coming into effect every time there is an election from the election commission. Another opinion is that having simultaneous elections will save the country huge sum of money.

Conducting a countrywide election cost ₹50,000 crore rupees.The critics of this plan argue that having a single election will put local issues on the backburner.

They worry that the national party will take away all the seats even in state and local body election because the election would be fought in the name of the Prime Minister or the ruling party all across India in a more so presidential style of election.

Another worry is that if we combine all elections, it would be tough to get in touch with their elected representatives since some of them are only available during elections time.

There are also several nitty-gritty is that have to be worked out. For example, if the elected government is dismissed midway, then what happens what happens to no-confidence motion. Currently the validity of a no-confidence motion is six months.

In my humble opinion, all these nitty-gritty is can be easily worked out. It is just about coming to a compromise that everyone agrees upon.
I am here to propose a alternative to one nation, one election which is to have One Nation Three Elections. As per my plan we increase the tenure of a elected official from five years to 6 years.
Every second year we will have a election.
First the Centre election, then the state election and finally the local body election.
All this will happen synchronously across the entire country.

In case a government falls, the tenure of this new elected government is till the reminder of the six-year term.
Eg: If you got disqualified in the fourth year and a new government is formed, its tenure will be there only for two years and after that you'll have to again go for fresh elections.

The Model Code of Conduct is usually two months before the elections plus the time that it takes to complete the election. Let's say three months goes waste for every election. This means that a period of nine months in a tenure of six years is lost due to no governance. This is far better than the current system where election happens every few months.

Also, if you factor in the another one or two months that these elected officials spent campaigning, this would add another six months of no major governance. But since every thing happens synchronous, the net loss is still far better than the current system.

This also has the added advantage that your elected officials will reach out to you once every two years. This would significantly improve the grievance redressal mechanism. Yes, this happens to some extent in a lot of states where there is a gap between the various elections but in a significant number of states, this happen pretty close to each other thus leaving a huge gap.

Another point to consider is that if we have all elections at one point or the same time then we would need three times the number of EVM is that we have today and we will have to educate everyone on why they need to vote thrice and which specific election they will be voting on this EVM.

Having simultaneous elections is definitely a good idea. How much good is a single election I don't know.

Finally, it can be said that our country is developing and there is a need of a big leader with the power of authority for all places so that the activities could be carried out in the proper manner in the society.

It is time to ponder behind the borderline and traditional ceiling and try to perceive the execution of the simultaneous elections. As we have heard of more hands more help can be easily seen here, each work needs a lot of force to do and this force can be applied here to complete our work with the help of one election.

Written By: Aman Kumar, BA LLB 4 year - Sukhadia University, Udaipur

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