Since the last few months, discussions around the idea of ‘One Nation One Elections’ has been in the public forum after both the Prime Minister and the President spoke about it in the recent session of the Parliament.
Elections are the most important aspect of a democracy, and the Indian electoral system is being reformed regularly to remove discrepancies and be updated, but the core of it has never been changed. The current electoral system has elections in three tiers: Central-State-Districts/villages/Panchayats. The ‘One Nation One Election’ theory suggests that all these elections should take place on one single day every five years. The reformers and reports suggest that by applying this theory, we would be able to save cost, human resources and time invested in the non-organised current election system.
In the 2014 General Election, India spent ₹3,426 cr and preparation for more than a year. Every year 5-7 state assembly elections take place costing states according to their area and voters, but the cost is always high.
The Indian election system had the ‘One Nation One Election’ system from the beginning of 1951 till 1967 when, due to premature dissolution of some states, the legislation system got disturbed, and these non-predictable events kept taking place at both the centre and the state governments – which has made elections so complex today. But what guarantees that the system will not get disrupted again if certain unpredictable and unavoidable events take place? So keeping in mind the track record of the unstable political history of states and centre, is it viable to invest so much effort in an uncertain policy?
And, if we talk about efforts, it will be logistically and operationally nearly impossible to conduct smooth and fair elections on 572 Lok Sabha seats, 29 states and more than 650 districts due to a major increment in the number of parties and candidates taking part in elections from the initial era. It will also cost a major sum and lots of manpower, which has not yet been calculated or even been taken into account by any official report available on One Nation One Election.
The most imminent danger will be to the federal system of India. States have their autonomy due to the vast area and diversity of India. And ‘One Nation One Election’ is the first step towards the ideology of a unified nation. If that happens, the local and regional issues will be overshadowed by a centralised agenda which will not help the lower section of the Indian social pyramid, which is very underdeveloped, to grow. In the same context, the regional political parties who have better understanding and knowledge about their region will get overshadowed by the two big national parties.
In the current system, due to regular elections in different parts of the country, political parties are in check as they are accountable to the people on a regular basis. If we set a cycle for all elections, Indian politicians will do what they are best at – losing accountability.
The other major concern is that politics in India is still considered as an agenda or issue-based politics, and we have multiple agendas for every part of the nation to discuss. But in ‘One Nation One Election,’ it will become a single campaign-centric politics with one or two major campaigners, which will not be fair to all voters.
Alternative amendments such as proper planning at every tier of the electoral system should be considered. Proper planning will require autonomy of the election commission at every tier, in states and districts, to plan elections according to their terrain conditions to make the current system more efficient and smooth while protecting the essence of Indian democracy and politics.