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.
This powerful speech by Lokmanya Tilak reminds us why “Self-Rule” important
“Freedom is my birthright. So long as it is awake within me, I am not old,” said Lokmanya Tilak.
“Swarajya is my birth-right and I shall have it!” roared Bal Gangadhar Tilak as he emerged from the prison in present-day Mumbai. India found a new slogan which paved the way for India’s Independence struggle and Tilak became the first Lokmanya leader of it. While for the most part of his contribution to Indian Freedom Struggle, he advocated radical approach, however, later in his last years he took up the task of taking the message of Swarajya to rural India. On the lines of Swarajya (Self-Rule) Tilak advocated a Home Rule (Self-governance) for India. He launched Home Rule League in April 1916 to work in Maharashtra (primarily in Bombay Presidency), Karnataka, the Central Provinces and Berar. The objectives of Tilak’s League were: 1) Establishment of self-government for India in British Empire and 2) Working for national education and social and political reforms.
The Membership for the Home Rule League skyrocketed from 1000 in November 1916 to 14,000 in April 1917 and to 32,000 in 1918. This was primarily due to the fiery speeches delivered by Tilak. The Home Rule League organized discussions and lectures and set up reading rooms. It distributed newspapers and pamphlets in English and vernacular languages, educating people about objectives of the movement. Members of the league were powerful orators and petitions of thousands of Indians were submitted to the British authorities.
The Home Rule League was inspired by Irish Home Rule movements. While Tilak focused on Western Parts of India, Irish Theosophical leader Annie Besant helped set up Home Rule League in the different parts of the country. She herself was very active in Madras Presidency. Though the Home Rule Movements of Tilak and Besant functioned separately, they worked in close cooperation with each other. The fiery speech by Bal Gangadhar Tilak soon gave massive popularity to the league.
Here’s one of the most popular speech by Bal Gangadhar Tilak on the first anniversary of the formation of the Home Rule League, in 1917, at Nasik.
“I am young in spirit. Even if my body has grown old, the young spirit inside me is still alive. Whatever I am saying today is deeply felt by this young spirit inside me. The body can wilt, it can decrepit or even perish but the soul residing in the body is forever young. Similarly, if our Home Rule activities slow down, the freedom of our inner spirit cannot sustain and no longer will it be indestructible. Then, we ourselves will start believing that we are slaves.
“Freedom is my birthright. I will not be old as long as it is alive within me. This feeling of freedom, no weapon can cut this, no fire can burn it, no water can drown it and no wind can blow it. We are asking for home rule and we will get it. The science of politics teaches us that we cannot achieve through Slavery what we can through Home Rule. The political progress is the pillar of a nation. I want to invoke your soul that yearns for freedom which will only happen through the political progress.”
“I want to destroy this superstition of slavery that has blinded your spirit. This superstition is the reason why you are being let down by ignorant, conniving and selfish people. There are two sides to the science of politics. While one is celestial, another is demonic. The slavery of any nation is the demonic side. There cannot be a moral justification for this. A nation which might justify this is sinful in the sight of God. Some bravely oppose this demonic side of oppression while some who cannot never be able to declare what is harmful to them.
“These people are capable of giving political and religious teaching, but they do not educate the common people about it. Religious and political teachings are not separate, though they appear to be so on account of foreign rule. All philosophies are included in the science of politics.”
“Who doesn’t understand the meaning of home rule? Who doesn’t desire it? If I enter your house as a guest, reside there forever and if I don’t pay heed when you oppose; would you like it? According to some people we don’t have the right to home rule. The British are ruling over us for the past century and they say we are not fit for home rule.”
“If the century of British Rule hasn’t been able to make us competent enough for Home Rule, then we will make ourselves fit for it. They find it shameful that we are making efforts to save our country. On the other hand, England itself is trying to protect the small state of Belgium with India’s help; isn’t that shameful for them? Those who find a selfish motive behind our demands or Home Rule can even find fault in the all-merciful God.”
“We all must save the soul of our nation from this custody of foreign rule. We have to toil for it but it is our birthright to protect our nation. The Congress has passed this home rule resolution.”
“Some selfish interests oppose India’s demand for Home Rule in practical politics on the pretext of several issues ridding our country. One such issue is illiteracy. But together we all can eradicate it. Remember, such issues can only be solved with co-operation. It would be sufficient for us that even the illiterate in our country have a dire desire for Swaraj, let it be the strength of all. Those who can easily complete their work can be illiterate but are not foolish. They can be as intelligent as any literate person. Literacy cannot be the parameter for intelligence.”
“It is not that difficult to attain Swaraj. Thus, illiteracy can never be the obstacle in the way. Our uneducated brethren are equally important for this country’s Home Rule. They have equal rights.”
“The circumstances change in no time. Today, only once voice echoes, ‘Now or Never’. Therefore, we must take advantage of this opportunity given to us by God and should put our maximum efforts in the struggle for Home Rule. Turn not back, and confidently leave the ultimate issue to the benevolence of the Almighty.”
Why demand for separate North Karnataka state?
North Karnataka is a dry region with scorching heat and lack of water resources, which is why Mysore state had apprehensions about unification.
The demand for separate North Karnataka state has raked up once again. The Uttara Karnataka Korata Samithi, an organization spearheading the demand for separate North Karnataka has called for a bandh in the 13 north Karnataka districts on August 2. But why has the demand for separate North Karnataka State emerged in the first place?
Before independence, today’s Karnataka state didn’t even exist. The Kannada speaking population was dispersed in several areas that fell under the princely states including the princely state of Mysore, Nizam’s Hyderabad, the Bombay Presidency and the Madras Presidency. While Almost the entire southern half of Karnataka was then under the princely state of Mysore ruled by Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the northern half was under Nizam (Hyderabad-Karnataka) and Bombay presidency(Bombay-Karnataka).
However, the language divides soon became the issue. Kannadigas in the Hubli-Karnataka region that fell under the Bombay Presidency felt that Marathis was being imposed on them at the expense of Kannada, while those in the Hyderabad-Karnataka felt that Urdu is being imposed on them under Nizam rule.
Same was the case with Kannadigas in Madras Presidency who felt the Tamil usage will leave Kannada-speaking people as a minority.
To save the Kannada language from extinction scholars and activists launched a movement to protest this linguistic oppression. However, the movement later developed into a demand for separate state coalescing all the territories from the presidencies that were majority Kannada-speaking. This was called the Ekikarana or ‘Unification’ movement. The resentment and protest had started as early as 1856.
However, later the movement gained momentum and led to decades of struggle by different organizations like Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, Kannada Sahitya Parishat and the Karnataka Samithi for the creation of Karnataka state. The struggle continued for years. However, it was in 1890 that the protest intensified with the arrival of Aluru Venkata Rao. He was inspired by the protests that followed after British partitioning of Bengal. In 1903, speaking at a meeting of the Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, he made a case for integrating all Kannada regions of Madras Province and north Karnataka with Mysore kingdom.
The idea of Separate Karnataka state was also ratified by the Nehru Committee in 1928. The Committee recommended the formation of a single province by uniting all Kannada speaking areas. The Nehru committee stated in its report that there was a “strong prima facie case for unification” and it believed Karnataka could also be a financially strong province. This recommendation aided the movement.
Post-independence, the creation of Karnataka state saw many obstacles, it was even opposed by the States Reorganization Committee. However, the unified Karnataka had huge support from the Kannadigas. The SRC eventually recommended the reorganisation of the states based on linguistic demographics and this was soon ratified in parliament. On 1 November 1973, under Devaraj Urs as Chief Minister, Mysore state was renamed as Karnataka.
The woes of North Karnataka:
Historically, the Southern Karnataka, under Mysore Princely state was always a prosperous region. The region has an abundance of natural resources and is economically well-off. On the other hand, North Karnataka is a dry region with scorching heat and lack of water resources. This is also one of the reasons why Mysore state had initially shown opposition to the idea of unification with North Karnataka.
The lack of favourable conditions in North Karnataka has also lead to lack of investment and thus, employment in this region. The agriculture has also suffered greatly because of lack of availability of water. While South Karnataka thrives on Cauvery water, North Karnataka is dependent on Mahadayi. However, the ongoing tussle between Goa and Karnataka over the water has left many farmers in a lurch. There is a high economic disparity between the people of North Karnataka and South Karnataka.
The demand for Separate North Karnataka:
The economic disparity between the two regions was even deepened by the political discourse that mainly focused around South Karnataka. The state capital was shifted from Mysore to Bengaluru but it still remained in South Karnataka. The North Karnataka was often ignored or was not considered significant.
There have been several protests against this discrimination as well. However, it was in 2000, when Vaijnath Patil a social worker demanded a separate Hyderabad-Karnataka state. He and his supporters even boycotted the Kannada Rajyotsava, but the movement did not get much traction.
In the wake of Karnataka Assembly elections of 2013, the then UPA govt. at the centre gave a special status to the Hyderabad-Karnataka region under section 371(J). A provision was created reserving 70% seats in colleges for local students while 75-85% jobs reserved for the local candidates. This move effectively tackled the separate state demand.
Why has the demand resurfaced?
The JD(S)-Congress formed the post-poll alliance that is ruling Karnataka now. However, the budget, presented by Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy has now become the centre of separate north Karnataka demand being surfaced again. The pro-separate state activist alleged that there are very few schemes and policies for the region.
The lack of representation in state cabinet from North Karnataka is also one of the reason. The state cabinet is dominated by Vokkaliga community which the CM belongs to and has a strong presence in South Karnataka. This has led to the separate North Karnataka state demand.
The Uttara Karnataka Horata Samithi has been at the forefront of the demand and the issue is less likely to die down in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Why is NRC being updated in Assam?
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Assam Gana Parishad first raised the demand to update the NRC 1951 more than three decades ago.
The illegal migrants into the north-eastern state of Assam from neighbouring Bangladesh have remained the biggest social, economic and electoral issue in Assam. The demand for updating the National Registration of Citizens in Assam is long-standing. Since the NDA brought Citizenship Amendment Bill in 2016, the demand for the updated NRC started gaining ground once again, this time more aggressively. In a first-ever updated NRC since 1951, as many as 2,89,83,677 people have been found eligible out of 3.29 crore applications.
The first list published on December 30 under the process cleared around 1.9 crore people as legal citizens of India. However, the NRC updating process has left out around 40 Lakh people.
- National Registration of Citizens:
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) contains the names of Indian citizens who have legally proven their existence in India. The first list for NRC was prepared in 1951, four years after independence when the first census was conducted. Under the process, a registrar was prepared in which every village was registered along with each house or holdings in a serial order. The number and names of persons staying in the houses and holdings were further added to the list. These registers were kept by Deputy Commissioners and Sub Divisional Officers according to instructions issued by the Government of India in 1951.
- What is the New NRC Update?
The NRC is now being updated to include the names of those who appeared in the Census of 1951. The NRC will also include the names of those persons or their descendants who appeared in the electoral rolls between NRC 1951 to the midnight of 24th March 1971. However, any other legal admissible documents issued up to midnight of 24th March 1971 can also be furnished to prove the presence of individuals in any part of India. The Citizenship data collected between this period is called the “legacy data”. According to the rule, two type of people can be included in the updated citizenship bill. 1.) Whose name appeared in NRC 1951 and have legal proof of existence in the pre-1971 period & 2) Those who have linkages with category 1 or their descendants.
- Why is NRC being updated especially in Assam?
After the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971, there has been a steady flow of illegal migrants to Assam. The Assamese feel the flooding of illegal migrants from across the border has disturbed the political and cultural components of Assam. The demand for updated NRC in Assam has emanated from the dire fear of being reduced to a minority in their own country.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Assam Gana Parishad first raised the demand to update the NRC 1951 more than three decades ago. The organizations launched an aggressive anti-immigrants Movement. Two months after the movement, on January 18, 1980, they submitted a memorandum to the Centre. In 1985, the Assam Accord, signed between the agitators and the government marked mid-night of 24th March 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to people who have come illegally to India from Bangladesh. It was decided that people who are originally Bangladeshi and have been staying in India illegally should be detected and deported to Bangladesh.
Even though the agitation was brought to an end after the accord was signed but a lot of key clauses are yet to be implemented by the government. Fourteen years after signing the Assam Accord an official-level tripartite meeting to review the implementation of the Accord. The decision to update the NRC was taken at this meeting. Rupees 20 lakh were sanctioned for this process by the then Central government. During UPA 1, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a green signal to update the NRC on May 5, 2005. The government set up a directorate for this purpose and the computerisation of the legacy data began.
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