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One Nation One Election: Constitutional challenges

From past few years it is observed that election take place frequently in some states of India. According to NITI Aayog, In the last 30 years, there has not been a single year without an election to either a State Assembly or to LokSabha or both. On the 73rd Independence Day The Prime Minister of India invited heads of all political parties to a meeting on 19th June, 2019 to discuss the one nation, one election idea and other important matters.

What is One Nation One Election?

The idea of One Nation One Election is about structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner such that elections to the LokSabha and the State Assemblies are synchronized together. General elections for the LokSabha and State Assemblies are held at the gap of 5 years in India. But in addition to this; elections for the different State Assemblies are held in some states separately which put huge burden on the government exchequer.

History of One Nation One Election

If you think that the idea of One Nation One Election is new for India then you are wrong because One Nation One Election is not a unique experiment in our country. Simultaneous elections have been conducted for the LokSabha and the state assemblies simultaneously in India in 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967.

This practice was discontinued in 1968-69, because some Legislative Assemblies were dissolved earlier due to various reasons. Since then India is trying hard to adopt the old election system but there is no consensus among the political parties.

Advantage of One Nation One Election

Improvement in Economy with Money Saved:
The biggest logic in the favor of the simultaneous election is the saving of government money. If the country goes for One Nation One Election it will saving of huge Government money.

  • When the first elections to the LokSabha took place in 1951-52, 53 parties contested the elections, around 1874 candidates participated and poll expenses were 11 crore.
  • In 2019 elections, there were 610 political parties, around 9,000 candidates and poll expenses of around 60,000 crore rupees (declared by ADR) are yet to be declared by the political parties.
  • the Law Commission of India estimated the cost of buying enough EVMs would be to the tune of Rs 4,500 crore – in the long run, this cost will even out, say those pro-ONE NATION ONE ELECTION (On a different note the 2019 election spending is roughly $8.5 billion. The combined presidential and Congressional election in the US in 2016 was $6.5 billion.)


Will Help Speed up Development Work

Code of Conduct during election period is imposed and it happens every now and then in one or other state. When the Model Code of Conduct is in force, new projects for public welfare cannot be launched. Accordingly, one time election will ensure continuity in policies, projects and programs of the central and state governments. So one time election will ensure continuity in policies and programs of the central and state governments.

Social Welfare Focused the Government Machinery

Concerned government deploys huge manpower and machinery to conduct free and fair elections in the country and states. One Nation One Election concept will help the Schools and universities open on time; educators to work without fear of vacation every now and then. This will have positive on the life of overall population.

Getting Rid of False Promises

Vote bank appeasement becomes the buzz word during elections. With elections around the corner, most political parties resort to contrivances to win or devastate reputation of different parties. They devise strategies just those which would win a bit leeway for the vote bank and help in winning elections.

Disadvantage of One Nation One Election

  1. It is observed that elections for state assemblies and LokSabha are fought on different issues. Regional parties target local issues while national parties target national issues. So there is a possibility that regional parties will not be able to raise the local issues strongly.
  2. Regional parties will not be able to compete with national parties in terms of election expenditure and election strategy. Assembly elections are closely associated with the local issues and local voters. Hence one time election will not be accepted by the regional parties.
  3. At present when almost all the regional parties are demanding to conduct elections through ballet papers. If elections are conducted in one time mode then the elections results will be declared very late.
  4. Also, according to IDFC, there is a 77% chance that the Indian voter will vote for the same party for both the state and Centre when elections are held simultaneously because India is a union of states and the central government allots huge money to the government of the same party in the states


Challenges
The term of the LokSabha and that of the State Legislative Assemblies needs to be synchronized so that the election to both can be held within a given span of time.

  • For instance, the term of the present LokSabha will go upto 2024, but elections to some of the legislative assembly had already taken place last year (for e.g. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) and some are due this year (for e.g. Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand), resulting in different dates of completion of the term.

To sync the term of the State Legislative Assemblies with that of the LokSabha, the term of the state legislative assemblies can be reduced and increased accordingly and for the same, constitutional amendment would be needed in:

Constitutional Amendments needed for simultaneous Elections:

The term of the LokSabha and that of the State Legislative Assemblies needs to be synchronized so that the election to both can be held within a given span of time.

  • For instance, the term of the present LokSabha will go upto 2024, but elections to some of the legislative assembly had already taken place last year (for e.g. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) and some are due this year (for e.g. Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand), resulting in different dates of completion of the term.


To sync the term of the State Legislative Assemblies with that of the LokSabha, the term of the state legislative assemblies can be reduced and increased accordingly and for the same, constitutional amendment would be needed in:Article 83: It states that the term of the LokSabha will be five years from the date of its first sitting.
Article 85: It empowers the President to dissolve the LokSabha.
Article 172: It states that the term of the legislative assembly will be five years from the date of its first sitting.
Article 174: It empowers the Governor of the state to dissolve the Legislative Assembly.
Article 356: It authorizes the Central Government to impose President’s Rule for failure of constitutional machinery in the state.

The Representation of the People Act as well as related parliamentary procedure will also need to be amended.

Solutions

  1. If India wants to continue with the Parliamentary form of government, there are following solutions:
    First one is inviting the second or the third leading person in the house or the leader of a political party to form the government or the House being given the opportunity to elect its leader, in case the government falls before completing its term.
    Second is amending the constitution to a certain extent and provide that any assembly whose term is ending within the six months to the LokSabha elections, after or before, the election for it can happen with that of the LokSabha.
    Synchronizing only the elections to the LokSabha and the RajyaSabha.
  2. One radical solution is to switch to the Presidential form of Government where the President is not accountable to the House.
    In America, the Election Day is fixed. After every four years, the Tuesday that falls after the first Monday in the month of November is the Election Day for the seat of the President and the Vice President.
    Similarly, the dates for holding the elections for the House of Representative and the Senate, are also fixed. The dates are between 2nd and 8th of the month of November. By law, these dates have been fixed.
  3. There is no doubt that implementation of the ‘One Nation One Election’ will involve some logistical costs. But there will be saving on other counts (e.g. reduced election expenditure) which would result in net savings.


Conclusion
There needs to be a consensus on whether the country needs one nation one poll or not. All political parties should at least cooperate in debating this issue, once the debate starts, the public opinion can be taken into consideration. India being a mature democracy, can then follow the outcome of the debate.

Footnotes:

  1. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/one-nation-one-election-perish-thought-1553953-2019-06-22
  2. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/one-nation-one-election/article28073916.ece
  3. http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-266-one-nation-one-election-the-law-and-the-politics.html
  4. https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/one-nation-one-election-1561032672-1
  5. https://www.insightsonindia.com/2019/06/17/one-nation-one-election/
  6. https://www.insightsonindia.com/2019/06/17/one-nation-one-election/
  7. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/one-nation-one-election-two-views/articleshow/69885042.cms
  8. https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2019/06/one-nation-few-election-a-case-against-simultaneous-election-one-nation-one-election/

Written By: Amit Singh (IMS Law College Noida, LL.B. 2nd Year)

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