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Opinion: Here’s A Better Alternative To The Proposal Of ‘One Nation One Election’

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On 12 April, India surpassed Brazil to record the second-highest COVID cases thanks to super-spreader events and uncontrolled election rallies and campaigns. The election commission imposed virtually no restrictions on the campaigning of political parties.

The worst part was the irresponsible statement by the Prime Minister while campaigning in West Bengal. He said, “Today, in all directions, I have seen such a rally for the first time…today you have shown such a force, such power…wherever I see, I just see people.” 

With these words, it can be understood that even people holding key offices under the constitutions give precedence to winning votes rather than protecting the country. Of course, appealing to people is the right of any party person. But is this the way to do it, without any consideration of the present situation?

Another debatable aspect is the involvement of key central level executives (executive refers to the Council of Ministers headed by the PM) in campaigning for state assembly elections. The involvement is quite normal, irrespective of the party in power. But the COVID world proves to be a war-like situation every day for the frontline workers, government officers and the people.

So even in these situations, should the persons holding important executive offices under the constitution prioritise campaigning for state elections for their party, overlooking the constitutional obligation and the mandate given by the people in 2019?

Even in normal circumstances, frequent elections at states and subsequent involvement of central level executives for campaigning disrupts the governance at the centre. This leads to the case of Government deficit. To address these governance deficits, there are two solutions:

  1. Reducing the frequency of elections.
  2. Barring or limiting central level executives from campaigning for their party in state elections.

Let’s see the possibility of both the solutions.

Will A Simultaneous Election Be A Solution?

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Do India need Simultaneous Elections?

No. But Why?

For reducing the frequency of elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier pitched for simultaneous elections (one nation, one election). A simultaneous election is defined as structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner such that elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies are synchronised together.

The reason sought by the proponents of the simultaneous election was that there would be only one election, meaning there would be minimal disruption in governance. But simultaneous elections are not the solution. It has many difficulties in implementation, such as the scope of holding bye-elections, security problems and the need for a constitutional amendment.

But at the top of all, simultaneous elections undermines federalism. It deters people from distinguishing between national and regional problems. In a diverse country like India, every region of the country faces different regional problems. But simultaneous elections will undermine local issues. People will tend to give more importance to national issues, thus, electing the candidates from the same national party for both Lok Sabha and Legislative assemblies.

The Possible Solution?

Amit Shah Bengal Rally
Amit Shah during a roadshow in support of Suvendu Adhikari (L), the BJP candidate for Nandigram constituency, at Nandigram on 30 March, 2021. (Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

So, reducing the frequency of the elections should not be the option in a country like India. The solution to address this governance deficit should be worked out by restricting central-level executives’ involvement in the campaigning of state elections.

The answer to the following question will decide the future course of action: In any situation, what relation should the executive of the central government have with their party when state elections are due?

One may argue that this restriction will give the opposition party an undue advantage as they can campaign with popular faces, while the party in power cannot. But it should be noted that once implemented, in a long-term perspective, it will be applied to any party that will be in power in the future, not only to the party in power at present. Thus, the implementation has a long-term benefit for the country as it directly affects the country’s governance.

One general understanding is that any decision regarding reforms in this matter, and in general, will not have 100% acceptability. If the benefit outweighs the cost, then any reform should be proceeded with by seeking ways to offset the concerns of the affected.

Here the concerns of the ruling party can be offset by some inherent advantages the solution has. If the opposition party has the advantage of using popular faces in campaigning, then the party in power still has a greater advantage of attracting votes as an effective administration by the executive even prior to the elections will increase the trust of people in the government. And the state-level head of the political party could take more responsibility in campaigning to offset the absence of popular faces.

It should be clarified here that the argument here is not to prevent the entire party in power from campaigning for state elections. But the argument is to limit the involvement of those who have much higher responsibility in governance.

But the solution stated above is not feasible unless and until there is an all-party consensus. Any party in power will not take a step on its own to initiate this kind of reform. A law in this regard cannot be expected anytime, sooner or later. There may be a bunch of counter-arguments against a solution of this kind.

But understanding this in the context of COVID will help. The effects of COVID will have a huge impact on many years to come. Uninterrupted governance is needed for the sustainable development of the country.

The discussion here is only regarding the involvement of national-level executives in state elections. The discussion can be further extended in general to the involvement of central and state-level executives (atleast the very important ones) in the campaigning of any elections, whether centre or states. The mature phase of a reform of this kind will be the “Separation of Government from Party”.

Though the reform seems to be a distant dream, any reform starts with a debate.

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How can we solve the problem of Governance deficit that arises due to frequent elections?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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