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One Nation, One Election: Challenges and Opportunities for India

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In June 2019, the Prime Minister of India extended an invitation to the leaders of all political parties to discuss the concept of “One Nation, One Election” along with other important matters. The idea behind “One Nation, One Election” is to synchronize the election cycles of the Lok Sabha (India's lower house of Parliament) and State Assemblies, aiming to streamline the electoral process in India.

Advantages of “One Nation, One Election”:

  1. Reduced Expenses: The proliferation of political parties and candidates in recent elections has led to skyrocketing poll expenses. By synchronizing elections, the financial burden on parties and the government can be significantly reduced.

  2. Cost Savings: Simultaneous elections can save significant amounts of public money by cutting down on the administrative and security costs associated with frequent elections.

  3. Efficiency and Timely Governance: Synced elections ensure that the government can focus on implementing policies and developmental activities instead of being continually engaged in electioneering.

  4. Informed Voting: Voters can better assess the performance and promises of political parties at both state and central levels, facilitating more informed voting decisions.

  5. Long-Term Decision-Making: Ruling politicians might be less inclined to make short-term, politically motivated decisions if elections are held less frequently, potentially leading to better governance.

  6. Improved Preparation Time: A five-year election cycle provides more time for political parties, the Election Commission of India, paramilitary forces, and civilians to prepare for elections.

Challenges to “One Nation, One Election”:

  1. Synchronization of Election Terms: Achieving synchronized elections requires amending various constitutional articles, such as Articles 83, 85, 172, 174, and 356, which pertain to the terms of the Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, and dissolution procedures.

  2. Parliamentary Form of Government: The parliamentary system of government in India makes it difficult to prevent the fall of a government before completing its term, necessitating an election.

  3. Political Consensus: Convincing all political parties to support “One Nation, One Election” remains a challenging task due to differing interests and concerns.

  4. Logistical Challenges: Holding simultaneous elections requires a considerable increase in the number of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPATs). The logistics of transporting materials and ensuring security are also complex issues.

Potential Solutions:

  1. Return to Historical Practice: India successfully conducted simultaneous elections for both the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies from 1951 to 1967. Reverting to this practice could be an option if the synchronization issue is resolved.

  2. Consider Presidential System: Transitioning to a presidential system, as seen in the United States, could help fix election dates, but this would involve fundamental constitutional changes.

  3. Alternative Synchronization: Synchronize elections for Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha or consider solutions like allowing the second or third leading person in the house or the leader of a political party to form the government in the event of a government's fall.

Conclusion:

“One Nation, One Election” offers a range of advantages, including cost savings and improved governance. However, it presents significant challenges, primarily related to synchronization and the parliamentary system of government. Finding common ground among political parties and exploring alternative solutions is crucial to make this concept a reality. While there are logistical challenges and potential costs involved, the long-term benefits may outweigh these initial concerns, ultimately leading to a more efficient and effective electoral system in India.

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