Exploring ‘One Nation, One Election’ in India: Pros and Cons and Global Experience
One Nation, One Election is an ambitious proposal aimed at synchronizing the Lok Sabha (India’s lower house of Parliament) and all state assembly elections, streamlining the electoral process. A committee headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind was constituted on 1st September 2023 to delve into the feasibility of this concept, indicating the government’s seriousness about its implementation.
Pros of ‘One Nation, One Election’
- Cost Reduction: Conducting elections at different levels incurs substantial financial expenses. ‘One Nation, One Election’ has the potential to significantly reduce these costs, as simultaneous elections would eliminate the need for separate electoral campaigns, logistics, and administrative expenditures.
- Administrative Efficiency: Simultaneous elections would alleviate the burden on administrative and security forces, which are often stretched thin during multiple election cycles. This would allow these forces to focus more on their primary duties and reduce the disruptions caused by election-related assignments.
- Governance Focus: Frequent elections can divert the government’s attention from governance and policy implementation to election mode. With ‘One Nation, One Election’ in place, the government could concentrate more on effective governance, long-term policymaking, and the implementation of developmental projects.
- Enhanced Voter Turnout: According to the Law Commission, simultaneous elections could lead to an increase in voter turnout. The convenience of casting multiple ballots at once could encourage more citizens to participate in the democratic process.
Cons of ‘One Nation, One Election’
- Constitutional Amendments: Implementing ‘One Nation, One Election’ would necessitate changes to the Indian Constitution and other legal frameworks. This process requires a constitutional amendment, followed by approvals from state assemblies. Such amendments are complex and time-consuming.
- Overshadowing Regional Issues: Critics argue that focusing on national issues during synchronized elections might overshadow critical regional concerns. State-level issues could take a backseat, potentially affecting the electoral outcomes at the state level.
- Lack of Political Consensus: Achieving consensus among all political parties on ‘One Nation, One Election’ is a formidable challenge. Opposition parties have expressed strong reservations, making it difficult to garner the required political support for this major electoral reform.
Countries that follow ‘One Nation, One Election’ concept
In Sweden, general elections for the Riksdag (national parliament), regional or county councils, and municipal councils occur every four years, typically in September. The unique aspect is that all these elections take place on a single day.
Sweden employs a proportional electoral system, where political parties receive seats in the assembly based on their vote share. This system ensures that the representation aligns with the public’s preferences, promoting fairness in elections.
Nepal faced the task of organizing simultaneous national and state elections after adopting a new constitution in 2015. Initially, the government planned to hold these elections simultaneously. However, logistical concerns led to a two-phase election.
The first phase occurred on 26th November 2017, followed by the second phase on 7th December 2017. While this approach was not simultaneous in the strictest sense, it represented Nepal’s efforts to balance logistical challenges with the desire for concurrent elections.
South Africa, a vast country with nine provinces, holds provincial and national elections every five years. These simultaneous elections create an intricate logistical challenge given the country’s size and diversity.
South Africa employs a proportional representation (PR) framework for electing members of parliament and provincial legislatures. The allocation of seats is based on the proportion of votes received by political parties, ensuring equitable representation.
The concept of ‘One Nation, One Election’ holds the promise of streamlining the electoral process, reducing costs, and enhancing administrative efficiency. However, its implementation entails complex constitutional amendments and overcoming significant political hurdles, including concerns about regional issues being sidelined.
As the committee, led by former President Ram Nath Kovind, explores the feasibility of this concept, it is vital to be aware of the fact that the ‘One Nation, One Election’ concept has been successful in a few countries and failed in a few countries. The committee and the government can draw valuable insights from these global experiences to design a synchronized electoral system, which should be tailored to India’s unique needs and challenges.