After the proposal of a simultaneous election in the country, the Election Commission has proposed one year one election.
As national and regional parties gear up for the election season, BJP has started pushing forward the need for simultaneous elections in the country. The proposal which was put forward in 2016 has started to gain momentum as we inch closer to the Lok Sabha elections. The proposal entailed that the whole country goes for elections in one year and simultaneously. Prime minister, Narendra Modi spoke, “At a ‘closed door’ meeting of the BJP’s national office bearers … just before the party’s national executive meet was kicked off … in laudatory terms for simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and state assemblies.” In spite of the meeting being ‘closed door’, the content was reported by The Hindu on March 31, 2016. The simultaneous elections, the BJP government believed would curb a lot of problems like every election being a costly affair and could save time and manual labour that is needed for contesting these elections.
While responding to PM’s suggestion, the Election Commission proposed One Year, One Election. The election commission also pointed out obvious setbacks in simultaneous elections that could possibly revolve around national issues and side-track issues of a particular state. The Commission further pointed out that politicians would stop worrying about regular elections where they will be held accountable for their work.
The idea behind simultaneous elections
BJP’s idea behind proposing simultaneous elections was to conduct nation-wide parallel Assembly and General election. This, they hoped could provide the government with stability which was also mentioned in the 117th report on Reform and Electoral Laws (1999) by the Law Commission of India. Along the same lines, they also hoped that the cost of elections which in the recent years has shot up to Rs 4500 crore could be cut down by a drastic margin. Thirdly, elections in states led to the imposition of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) puts on hold the entire development programme and activities. If all elections are held in one particular year, it will give a clear five years to the political parties to focus on good governance. Fourth, the continuous election has an impact on the functioning of essential services considering the rallies do cause traffic problems as well as loss of productivity. Lastly, the simultaneous election would reduce the type of manpower and resource deployment necessary for the conduct of elections.
Election commission retorted this by saying India has a multi-party democracy where elections are held for State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha separately. The voters are in a better position to express their voting choices keeping in mind the two different governments which they would be electing. This distinction gets distorted when voters are made to vote for electing two types of government at the same time, at the same polling booth, and on the same day.
The Election Commission asserted that Assembly elections are contested on local issues and, parties and leaders are judged on the basis of their work done in the state. Joining them with the general election could lead to a situation where the national narrative overshadows the regional story.
However, the biggest challenge to simultaneous polls lies in getting the party political consensus needed to bring an amendment in the law.
Proposal of One Year, One Election
The election commission while writing back to Narendra Modi on 24th April devised a plan B, on the lines of One Nation, One Election. The Election Commission suggested that all the elections that are to be held in one year should be contested in a span of a fixed time rather than being contested all year round. The Election Commission further added that with the implementation of One Year, One Election the incumbent government would be given the opportunity to complete its term since the time of completion of a term could be different in every state.
The EC wrote, clubbing elections that are scheduled in a year would be less stressful than holding simultaneous polls as it does not require five constitutional amendments.
The Law Commission had asked the poll panel to elucidate its position on five constitutional matters and 15 socio-political and economic questions that need to be addressed before simultaneous elections can be organised.
At present, the commission conducts elections at the same time for states where the term of Assemblies end within a few months of each other. Section 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, excludes it from informing elections more than six months before the term of a state assembly terminates. In 2017, the poll panel conducted the elections in five states – Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa – at the same time, and the elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later in the year since the terms of their Assemblies ended at different times.
Which way will the plan go?
The Narendra Modi government has been pushing for simultaneous elections, but not everyone is convinced it is a good idea.
“The party will welcome Election Commission’s any decision that makes the poll process easy. But One Year One Election poses several challenges- certain governments are short-lived, sometimes the mandate can be fractured. In such situations, there will be confusion. The party high command will discuss about this.” said a Congress spokesperson.
As the election fever reaches new highs every day, it will be interesting to see how One Year, One Election’s idea fans out. We will get to witness if Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand go to contesting elections along with General Assembly or will they contest elections state wise.