Polity and Governance

One nation, one election

Introduction
•Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened the meetings of the heads of various political parties to know their views for having simultaneous polls for Parliaments and State Assembly.
•Congress, Trinamool Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam stayed away from the meet citing various reasons. Aam Aadmi Party, Telugu Desam Party and Telangana Rashtra Samithi sent representatives.
•Later Union minister Rajnath Singh said that the government will form a committee to look into the feasibility of one nation, one election.
 
Current status
•Currently, elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held separately i.e. whenever the incumbent government’s five-year term ends or whenever it is dissolved due to various reasons.
•As a result, elections are held after every few months and political parties get engaged in election campaigns.      
 
One Nation, one election
•The idea of holding simultaneous elections to Parliament and state assemblies is not new. Till 1967 that was the norm in India.
•Elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held together in 1951-52, 57, 1962 and 1967.
•It gained recent importance after Prime Minister Narendra Modi floated the idea in March 2016.
 
Historical perspective
•The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983.
•The Law Commission’s Report also referred to it in 1999.
•The Niti Aayog prepared a working paper on the subject in January 2017.
•In the working paper that the Law Commission brought out in April 2018, it said that at least “five Constitutional recommendations” would be required to get this off the ground.  
 
How may it work?
•There were two proposals to conduct simultaneous elections  
•One proposal was to make the shift to simultaneous polls in a phased manner, where general elections of a few states can be synchronised with one Lok Sabha electon and the rest at the next Lok Sabha election. 
•The second option involved synchronisation in two batches.
     •Elections to the 12 State Legislative Assemblies and one Union Territory would be synchronised with elections to the Lok Sabha in 2019.
     •Then elections to the remaining State Legislative Assemblies will be synchronised with that of one Union Territory by the end of 2021.
     •Thus the State assembly elections will be held twice every five years.
 
Benefits
•Simultaneous polls will reduce enormous costs involved in separate elections.
•The system will help ruling parties focus on governance instead of being constantly in election mode.
•Simultaneous polls will boost voter turnout
 
Challenges
•National and state issues are different, and holding simultaneous elections is likely to affect the judgment of voters.
•Since elections will be held once in five years, it will reduce the government's accountability to the people. Repeated elections keep legislators on their toes and increases accountability.
•When an election in a State is postponed until the synchronised phase, President’s rule will have to be imposed in the interim period in that state. This will be a blow to democracy and federalism.
•If Lok Sabha goes for mid-term poll, all States have to go on poll despite their clear majority.



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