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This article is written by Ashish Sharma, a student of the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law. The author has discussed the concept of One nation, one election along with its constitutional validity.

Introduction and Meaning

Indian Constitution is said to be of quasi-federal nature i.e. partly federal and partly unitary. It is unitary in spirit but federal in the form (can be realized through the three lists in Schedule vii of the Constitution). Elections and the three-tier government is a sheer example of federal form.

One Nation, One Election term in its popular sense means conducting of the simultaneous elections of all the three tiers of government i.e. House of People (Lok Sabha), State Assemblies (Vidhan Sabha) and local bodies together. The effective meaning of one nation, one election is that all voters will cast their vote on the same day for electing members of all the tiers of government.

Simultaneous elections do not mean that the voting across the whole country for all State Assemblies and House of People take place on a single day as in a vast and diverse country like India elections can take place only in phases. If this policy is selected then the voters of a particular constituency will vote for House of People and State Assembly on the same day.

The policy of simultaneous elections is not a newly originated policy of Modi Government but it is an old policy which was followed by India in the elections after independence for decades. In the first two-three general elections i.e. 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967 the elections are conducted simultaneously for both the State Assemblies and House of People.

But in 1967, due to the indiscriminate abuse of power of Article 356 of the Constitution and dissolution of some State Assemblies in 1968 and 1969 and the dissolution of House of People in 1970 disrupts the cycle of simultaneous elections in India.

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Viability of conducting simultaneous elections

As state above, the cycle of simultaneous elections was disrupted after 1967. The main reason behind conducting the synchronised elections at that time is the dominance of national parties and ineffectiveness of the regional parties in the country. But with the passage of time, the situation does not remain the same and the regional parties not only increased in number but also become influential. For instance, Biju Janta Dal political party of Naveen Patnaik is very influential in Odisha.

According to the present system of elections, political parties always seem to be continuously in an election mode which is not good for the welfare of the country as fragmented election cycle continuously engages the attention of public, lawmakers and other resources. The various implications of conducting simultaneous elections are as follows:

  1. Financial Implication

 It is widely recognized the fact and clearly seen that frequent elections lead to the massive expenditure not only of Government of India but also of other stakeholders such as political candidate, businessmen etc. Every year both Central government and State government incur huge and separate expenditure to control, conduct and supervise the elections.

The expenditure of elections to the House of People is borne by the Government of India and of State Assemblies by the State Government. Whenever the elections are conducted simultaneously the expenditure incurred in conducting elections is borne by both the Central and State government equally. The expenditure incurred only through public funds in Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and Assembly elections after 2014 Lok Sabha elections are as follows.

S.No

State

No. of AC’s

Expenditure for 2014 Lok Sabha(In INR)

Expenditure for Assembly election after Lok Sabha(In INR)

 1.

Haryana

   90

28,90,43,000

33,72,89,000

 2.

Jharkhand

   81

89,47,23,569

85,93,96,554

 3.

Madhya Pradesh

 230

1,98,81,24,000

1,30,21,83,000

 4.

Maharashtra

  288

4,87,00,00,000

4,61,86,49,000

 5.

Delhi

  70

34,50,52,313

98,76,00,000

AC’s = Assembly Constituencies

This is evident that the cost incurred in conducting separate elections increases year by year. The Election Commissioner of India alone incurred the cost of 3,586 crores in conduction 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This does not include the cost incurred by Indian Railways, Ministry of Justice and the money put by the political parties in the election.

It has been estimated by the New Delhi based organisation Centre for Media Studies that the total expenditure in conducting the 2019 election will be around 50,000 crores i.e. $7billion.

  1. Logistical Implications

In the present era, the elections for both the State Assemblies and the House of People are conducted through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). In conducting separate elections the benefits is that same Electronic Voting Machines can be used in elections of various States. Conducting of simultaneous elections would entail the procurement of more Electronic Voting Machines. Simultaneous elections would also entail the requirement of increase in storage capacity of the machines, increase in polling material and polling staffs also.

Conducting an election in it is a complex, mammoth and time-consuming activity. The Election Commission of India to ensure smooth and impartial conduct of elections in 16th Lok Sabha approximately took services of around 10 million personnel as polling officials for supervising the elections.

Other than this the Election Commission of India for security arrangements generally takes the assistance of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), State Armed Police, Home guards etc. to complement the security arrangements. The role of these officials starts much before the elections and continues till the entire duration of the elections i.e. till the declaration of results. Such a situation leads to lock-in of security forces for the long period and takes away a big portion of the armed police force which could better be deployed for their core responsibilities.

The polling booths are most often located in schools whether private or government and the school teaching staff and other staff are directed to proceed for election duties and comprise their primary duty of imparting education to the children. These cases are similar in all States and holding of such fragmented elections leads to disruption of these resources time and again which makes the holding of simultaneous elections more desirable.

  1. Model Code of Conduct

The Model Code of Conduct is a set of guidelines which is applicable to all the political parties and party candidates to ensure free and fair elections. The Model Code of Conduct is imposed by the Election Commission of India which forbids the Government from;

(1) Announcing any financial promises.

(2) Starting any new projects or schemes.

(3) Start or make any promise regarding the construction of roads, provisions of water facilities etc. 

(4) Make an appointment in Government or any other public undertaking for the purpose.

According to Election Commission of India, all the projects, schemes etc. which may influence the voters in favour are restricted only the existing schemes are operative and are unaffected. The schemes to cope with the emergencies are generally approved by the Election Commission during the period of Model Code of Conduct. But at times during the election process, the government have to defer the vital schemes which slow down the pace of their ambitious work.

Simultaneous Poll- Boon or Bane

It is portrayed and dramatized that simultaneous elections will be advantageous to the national parties over the regional or local parties and national issues might cover the local issues of the States. It is also contended that the simultaneous elections may results in the autocratic nature of the ruling party without any check on its action and regional parties get marginalized. But the truth is that after this policy the regional parties would take decisions not for the individual benefits but for the national benefit.

Infrequent elections the populist measures used by the local parties to win the favour of the voters tend to shake the free and fair elections.

All the parties in time of election invest their time, energy and other resources to ensure their win rather than focus on governance. The process of conducting fragmented election deviate the attention of lawmakers from core issues of governance and development activities to campaigning of elections.

Simultaneous elections would reduce the funding of elections through black money as the movement of money keeps a gap for misuse wide and political parties will not be tempted as they require fewer resources to invest in.

According to the report, “separate election prevents the participation of people in the democratic process and contended that simultaneous elections will increase voter- participation in the democratic process”.

Framework for synchronising the elections

The Law Commission suggested three alternatives for synchronising the elections. They are as follows.

  • It was recommended by the Commission to postpone the timings of an election in certain states so that State Assemblies and Lok Sabha elections may be held together such as Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Telangana.

The Commission proposed to extend the term of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Mizoram State Assemblies by an amendment in the Constitution and to conduct the election of Assemblies of Jharkhand, Haryana, Maharashtra and Delhi with Lok Sabha election by operation of law or if the states dissolve their assemblies early.

  1. The Commission proposed election in 2021 for Puducherry and other 16 states to be conducted in 2021 to effectively conduct the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies elections together in 2024.
  2. The Commission recommended that all elections falling due in a calendar year should be conducted together if a simultaneous election is not possible.

Effect on Constitutional Set- Up

The Bill has received several criticisms with regard to democratic and constitutional issues. The democratic and polity set up of country are prone to several changes if the Bill is implemented. It is to be noted that simultaneous elections can only be conducted by making adequate amendments in the Representation of People Act 1951, Rules of Procedure of State Assemblies and Lok Sabha and the Constitution.

It is contended that the bill seeks to tinker with the basic structure of the Constitution which was provided by the Honourable Supreme court in Kesavananda Bharti case.

The bill seeks to affect the Parliamentary system of Democracy and affect the electorate voting capacity. For effective implementation ample number of amendments should be made in the Constitution and the articles in which major changes to be made are as follows.

  • Article 83 and Article 172 of the constitution need to be amended which prescribes the maximum duration of five years for the House of People and the State Assemblies unless sooner dissolved. These articles further provide for the extension of the term if an emergency is in operation.
  • Article 85(1) and Article 174(1) which deals with the dissolution of Parliament and State Assemblies stipulate that the period between the last session of the House of People and State Assemblies and the first session shall not exceed six months.
  • The Commission proposed replacing the ‘no-confidence motion’ with ‘constructive vote of no confidence’ with a limited number through proper amendments. According to ‘constructive vote of no confidence’ the government may only be removed when there is a confidence in other government.
  • The Commission seeks amendment in the Schedule 10 of the Constitution which deals with Anti defection laws to ensure that all disqualifications are decided by presiding officers within six months.
  • The major problem which can be faced in conducting a simultaneous election is that if no party secures majority to form the government may result in a hung assembly. In order to prevent such situation, the President in Centre and governor in States must give an opportunity to the largest party along with pre and post-poll alliance to form the government.
  • Article 356 which deals with the President powers to proclaim emergency in the country or State are to be amended accordingly.

Other Statutes

  • For the purpose of simultaneous elections section 14 and section 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to be amended which deals with the notification for general elections to the House of People and the State Assemblies.
  • Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha to be amended with regard to the introduction of a no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha.

Conclusion

The holding of simultaneous election will help in using the available resources in an effective and proper manner. It will reduce the drainage of resources. But before being implemented it had to pass through the hurdles of the Constitution through amendments and 2/3 majority of the Parliament and the State Legislature.

 

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