One nation, one poll

Simultaneous elections must be seen as part of wider electoral reforms for good governance

Author Published: 31st Jan 2018   12:00 am Updated: 30th Jan 2018   7:17 pm

A noisy democracy caught in a perpetual election mode has the potential to disrupt the pace of development and impede the policy-making process. On an average, India witnesses elections to about five to seven State Assemblies every year, pushing the political class into a constant mode of poll preparedness and to think in terms of immediate electoral gains rather than focus on long-term programmes and policies. It is an open secret that once the poll code of conduct kicks in, hardly any development activity is possible. Besides imposing a huge burden on the exchequer, frequent cycle of elections distracts the government machinery from its primary task of policymaking and implementation of welfare initiatives. Simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies is an idea whose time has come. The concurrent poll calendar must be seen as part of wider electoral reforms to reduce the burden on the exchequer and improve administrative efficiency and delivery mechanism. The issue of ‘one nation, one poll’ has once again occupied the centre stage of national narrative with both President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi making a strong pitch for it. This has prompted the opposition Congress to suspect the possibility of early general elections in the country. In his first address to Parliament, marking the commencement of the Budget session, Kovind made a strong case for simultaneous elections. The President’s remarks echoed Modi’s views made during a meeting of NDA allies where he pushed the idea aimed at relieving the government machinery from constantly being in poll mode.

Given the fragmented polity and concerns over the possible dilution of federal spirit, it would be a herculean task to achieve political consensus on the issue. However, a beginning must be made to build public opinion in favour of synchronised polls so that there can be a single election season across the country once in five years followed by an uninterrupted focus on good governance. The President has rightly called for a sustained debate on the subject to achieve consensus. Initially, there might be some legal, constitutional and logistic hurdles coming in the way of changing the present system but the benefits would be immense in the long-run, not just in terms of reducing the financial burden but also imparting stability to policymaking. On its part, the Election Commission has also lent its support to the idea and even declared its preparedness to hold simultaneous polls. The concept of simultaneous polls is not alien to India. In fact, it was the norm since the first election in 1951-52 till 1967. But the process was disrupted in 1971 with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.