Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi addressed the concluding session of the 80th All India Presiding Officers Conference via videoconference, at Kevadiya in Gujarat on the occasion of Constitution Day that is commemorated on 26th November.
He mentioned about the need for ‘One Nation, One Election’, a single voter list for all polls and also asked the presiding officers to simplify the language of statute books and allow for an easier process to weed out redundant laws. He also paid tributes to the security forces and appreciated India’s efforts to fight terrorism. 26 November, 2020 marked 12 years of the Mumbai terror attacks.
The idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’ is supposed to structure the Indian election cycle in such a manner that elections of the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies are synchronised together, so that the elections to both can be held within a given span of time.
There are various advantages of this practice of ‘One Nation, One Election’. It would prove to be beneficial in order to keep a check on the poll expenses, party expenses, etc. and also save public money. This is said to reduce the burden on administrative setup and security forces. This could also ensure timely implementation of the government policies and make sure that the administrative machinery is engaged in developmental activities rather than electioneering. This could also solve the problem of governance on the part of the politicians who are ruling. It is generally observed that for short term political gains from a particular assembly election, ruling politicians avoid taking a harsh long term decision which can ultimately help the country in the long run. Also, it will provide more time to all the stakeholders i.e. Political parties, Election Commission of India (ECI), Paramilitary forces, Civilians for the preparation of elections once in five years.
The synchronisation that is supposed to be a boon is also something that could be problematic, considering the traditions and conventions that India’s Parliamentary system follows. The government is accountable to the Lower House and it is possible that the government can fall before completing its term and the moment the government falls, there has to be an election. It can also be difficult to convince and bring together all the political parties on the idea.
An increased need of ballot boxes and other equipments as for holding simultaneous elections, the requirements for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) will double as the Election Commission of India would have to provide two sets that is one for election to the Legislative Assembly and second for that to the Lok Sabha. There will also be an additional requirement of the polling staff and for better security arrangements.
Now, if India follows the elections with only one voter list for Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and other elections, it would be surrounded by various advantages and disadvantages like, a common electoral roll will save an enormous amount of effort and expenditure as the preparation of a separate voters list causes duplication of the effort and the expenditure. Persuading the state governments to tweak their respective laws and adopt the ECI voters list for municipal and panchayat polls, would require a massive consensus-building exercise.
In country like India which is so vast, conducting elections in a phased manner poses a problem as it hampers the development work. But it is equally challenging to have ‘One Nation One Election policy’ as there are various challenges. Also, consensus of all political parties is a must which again would take time to gain.