One Nation One Election is not a new idea. In fact, the first-ever general elections for both the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies took place simultaneously in 1951-1952, right after the enforcement of the Indian Constitution. This practice continued seamlessly for the following three Lok Sabha elections, streamlining the election process. However, it hit a snag in 1959 when the Central government invoked Article 356, leading to the dismissal of the Kerala government. Subsequent to 1960, defections and counter-defections among political parties led to separate election cycles for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
Presently, only specific states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha conduct their assembly polls concurrently with the Lok Sabha elections. The rest follow staggered election cycles, contributing to frequent electoral exercises.
Reports and Perspectives on One Nation One Election:
The Law Commission of India (LCI), led by Justice B. S. Chauhan, issued a draft report in 2018, scrutinizing simultaneous elections. The report recognized potential benefits, including cost savings and focused governance, but it also underscored the constitutional and legal complexities surrounding the proposal.
Notably, the LCI, as early as 1999, supported the concept of simultaneous elections. This historical context reveals that the idea has been debated over time.
Challenges and Concerns:
- Reduction in election expenditure
- Enhanced governance and policy continuity
- Increased voter turnout
- Reduced political manipulation
- Logistical challenges
- Dominance of national issues
- Risk of single-issue campaigns
- Potential for weakened federalism
The ONOE plan encounters several roadblocks. Feasibility and constitutional implications arise due to the fixed tenures outlined in the Constitution for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. Maintaining stability and conducting fresh elections in case of mid-term government collapse presents a significant challenge.
ONOE also raises concerns regarding federalism and conceptual incompatibility. Altering the balance between the Union and the States could impact state governments’ autonomy and authority.
Moreover, the blending of national and state issues could dilute accountability mechanisms and result in a less-focused governance approach.
The Way Forward:
To navigate this complex terrain, a comprehensive constitutional review is imperative. Legal experts should meticulously assess necessary amendments, and a contingency plan to handle midterm government collapses should be developed.
Balancing federalism and centralization is crucial. Engaging in dialogues with state governments to understand and address their concerns about centralization can pave the way for a balanced framework.
Exploring a hybrid accountability model, which retains staggered elections for select states while implementing ONOE for others, could promote effective governance.
Conducting an independent and transparent cost-benefit analysis is essential to address misconceptions about the financial implications of ONOE.
Lastly, a phased approach, beginning with pilot projects in a limited number of states, allows for the assessment of challenges and insights before nationwide adoption.
The proposal for ‘One Nation One Election’ holds the potential to transform India’s electoral landscape, but it demands careful consideration, balancing the benefits with the challenges. As India’s democracy navigates its complex dynamics and diverse contexts, a well-rounded understanding is crucial before implementing such a significant change.