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One Nation, One Election: Exploring Its Implications

By Venkatasubramanian Srinivasan

The concept of One Nation, One Election aims to streamline the electoral process by consolidating elections for various levels of governance into a single event. This idea has garnered support from prominent leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Presidents Pranab Mukherjee and Ram Nath Kovind, and has been advocated by various commissions and committees including the Election Commission report in 1983, the 170th Law Commission in 1999, and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in 2015.

Constitutional and Legal Challenges
Implementing One Nation, One Election entails amendments to several constitutional articles and legal frameworks, including those pertaining to the duration and dissolution of Parliament and state legislatures. This necessitates constitutional amendments requiring significant ratification from states, presenting a formidable challenge for the government. Moreover, synchronizing the terms of different state governments poses practical hurdles, as it would require some states to curtail their assembly terms while others extend theirs. Additionally, accommodating the tenure of local bodies governed by state legislation adds further complexity, necessitating amendments to numerous legal provisions.

Logistical Challenges
Organizing simultaneous elections necessitates the coordination of vast logistical operations, including the deployment of millions of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines, as well as the mobilization of central forces nationwide, presenting a significant logistical challenge.

Arguments in Favour
Advocates of One Nation, One Election highlight several potential benefits, including reducing the financial burden on the exchequer by minimizing election-related expenditures. Streamlining the electoral process could also mitigate the influence of black money, enhance administrative efficiency, and foster continuity in governance, thereby improving the delivery of essential services to the public. Furthermore, proponents argue that simultaneous elections would bolster voter turnout, diminish divisive political tactics, and alleviate voter fatigue.

Arguments Against
Critics of One Nation, One Election caution against potential drawbacks, such as undermining the accountability of governments by extending fixed terms, overshadowing state issues with national agendas, and disadvantaging regional parties. Concerns also include limiting voter choice, exacerbating logistical challenges, and potentially compromising internal security due to concentrated security deployments.

While One Nation, One Election presents an intriguing prospect for streamlining India’s electoral process, it necessitates careful consideration and extensive debate, particularly regarding its implications for the federal structure and regional dynamics. Finding innovative solutions and garnering consensus across the political spectrum will be crucial for its successful implementation. If realized, India would join a select group of nations conducting simultaneous elections, reaffirming its commitment to democratic principles while setting a unique global precedent.  The nation awaits the comprehensive, conclusive and adaptable recommendations of the eight-member High Level Committee (HLC) headed by the former President of India, Ramnath Kovind, constituted on 2 September 2023.

[The author is a retired international civil servant of the United Nations, presently Founder & Principal Consultant, India i.e., Bharat Knowledge Exchange, and Founder & CEO, Quill & Juris]

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