One Nation, One Poll: Boon or Bane? Let's Discuss
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Serving the second term as India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi held a crucial meeting to discuss the agenda of ‘One Nation, One Poll,’ in the presence of party leaders and the opposition. The presidents of 40 parties were invited only 21 attended as others including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav gave it a miss.
The idea of simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and all Assemblies would help focus on governance, reduce expenditure, and help channel security forces more efficiently, BJP argued whereas the leaders of opposition including Congress alleged that the move will undermine democratic accountability, the federal structure and also pointed to its lack of feasibility within the constitutional scheme.
Apart from simultaneous elections, the meeting was also targeted at discussing ways to improve the productivity of Parliament, building a new India in the 75th year of Independence, programmes and commitments to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary and the development of aspirational districts.
The Opposition’s Reaction
Speaking on behalf of party president Rahul Gandhi, Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi expressed, “Our legal experts, our constitutional experts have also said that this is a perversion of the Constitution. The framers of our Constitution envisioned flexibility and envisioned federalism. So this brings in a sense of rigidity, this brings us constitutional change.”
However, his party leader, Milind Deora “personally viewed” the proposal on conducting simultaneous polls “worthy of a debate” as “continuous election mode is a roadblock to good governance”. TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee argued that the issue needed much greater deliberation and demanded a ‘white paper’ on the issue.
BSP chief Mayawati boycotted the meeting and called the idea a gimmick to win the elections through manipulation of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) all at once. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also opposed the idea calling it inconsistent with parliamentary democracy & federalism. “They violate the basic structure of our Constitution,” he tweeted.
In an official statement, the Aam Aadmi Party raised some preliminary concerns based on the limited information available in case of a government’s dissolution due to loss of majority or life. “Concept of compelled simultaneous elections has an anti-democratic tint basing its foundation on the premature dissolution of a government,” stating Raghav Chadha, urging BJP to publish a draft policy on the issue before soliciting views.
The former chief election commissioner OP Rawat had said last year that simultaneous elections are not possible without a legal framework as any extension or curtailment of the term of assemblies will require a constitutional amendment. He had that all political parties needed to be brought on board before such an exercise could be carried out.
For the uninitiated, the idea of ‘One Nation, One Vote’ was first proposed by the election commission in 1983 and couldn’t take off due to reservations. Even the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had proposed the move during his tenure. BJP leader L K Advani had once said that ‘mini-general elections’ are “not good for the health, either of our Central and State governments, or of our polity.”
In 2015, the Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by E M Sudarsana Natchiappa had argued that the holding of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies would reduce: (i) the massive expenditure that is currently incurred for the conduct of separate elections; (ii) the policy paralysis that results from the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election time; (iii) impact on delivery of essential services and (iv) burden on crucial manpower that is deployed during election time.
Congress, Trinamool Congress and other relevant parties classified the report’s observations as “impractical” and “unworkable”. Even the former President Pranab Mukherjee had admitted that frequent elections “put on hold development programmes, disrupt normal public life and impact essential services and burden human resource with prolonged periods of election duty.”
President Ram Nath Kovind also believes that “One Nation, Simultaneous Election is the need of the hour which would facilitate accelerated development, thereby benefiting our countrymen.” Most of the parties which attended the meeting supported the ‘One Nation, One Poll’ idea but CPI and CPI-M expressed a difference of opinion on its implementation. Prime Minister is inclined to form a committee to examine its feasibility.