Weeks before “One Nation, One Election” got a fresh thrust with the government asking a panel to examine the proposal, Union Law Minister Arjun Meghwal had listed the big hurdles and imperatives for syncing elections nationwide.
Arjun Meghwal had cited five impediments to “One Nation, One Election” and arguments in favour of the idea in a written reply in parliament on 27 July, to a question raised by Kirodi Lal Meena.
Hurdles Listed by Minister:
- The move would require amendments in five articles of the Constitution, the Law Minister said.
These are, Article 83 on the duration of Houses of Parliament, Article 85 on the dissolution of Lok Sabha by the President, Article 172 on the duration of state legislatures, Article 174 on dissolving state legislatures and Article 356 on President’s Rule in states.
- Simultaneous national and general elections will also require the consensus of all political parties.
- Mr Meghwal said given the country’s federal structure, it was imperative that the consensus of all state governments was obtained.
- The cost of the move could run into thousands of crores as additional Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (EVMs/VVPATs) would be needed.
“Considering that the life of the (EVM) machine is only 15 years, this would imply that the machine would be used for about three or four times in its life span, entailing huge expenditure in its replacement every 15 years,” said Mr Meghwal’s reply.
- The minister also listed the requirement of additional polling personnel and security forces.
Pros listed by Law Minister:
- Simultaneous elections will be a huge saving for the public exchequer. The minister says avoiding replicating the administrative and law and order machinery with repeated elections will also save the costs to political parties and candidates in their election campaigns.
- Because of asynchronous national and state elections, including byelections, the Model Code of Conduct is in force for prolonged periods, which impacts developmental and welfare programmes adversely.
- The minister cited the example of South Africa, where elections to national and provincial legislatures are held simultaneously for five years and municipal elections are held two years later.
- In Sweden, the election to the national legislature (Riksdag) and provincial legislature/county council (Landsting) and local bodies/municipal assemblies (Kommunfullmaktige) are held on a fixed date – the second Sunday of September – for four years.
- In UK, the term of parliament is governed by the Fixed-term Parliament Act, 2011.
A committee led by former president Ram Nath Kovind has been tasked with exploring simultaneous polls in India, which was the norm till the 1960s. India voted simultaneously for the Centre and states in 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967.
The idea to revert to simultaneous polls was suggested in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983. Later, a Law Commission report referred to it in 1999.
In 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP-led government came to power, the party made a strong pitch for “one nation, one election”.