In the world’s largest democracy, elections have become a recurring spectacle that engulfs the nation in a perpetual state of political frenzy. Every few months, different parts of the country are plunged into poll mode at national, state, and local levels. This not only diverts the government’s attention away from issues like economic development, healthcare, education and infrastructure, but also disrupts the normal course of governance. The concept of One Nation, One Election (ONOE) has emerged as a solution to this problem, offering the promise of stability, efficiency, and a renewed focus on governance. It envisions aligning the electoral calendars. Instead of holding polls at different levels at different times, all would be held simultaneously, ideally once every five years.
One of the most compelling arguments in favour of ONOE is the efficient allocation of resources. Currently, elections at various levels consume a substantial portion of the government’s budget. These could be better utilised for developmental projects, social welfare programmes, and infrastructure development. Reducing the poll frequency would ease the financial burden on political parties, who often spend enormous sums on campaigning.
Frequent elections can also lead to a myopic focus on short-term political gains. The system would also provide an extended window for governance, enabling policymakers to formulate and implement long-term policies that are truly in the interest of the nation. With this will come greater policy stability and continuity. Currently, frequent changes in government at various levels can lead to policy disruptions, which are detrimental to economic growth.
Frequent polls can lead to voter fatigue. They may become disillusioned with the constant political churn and opt out of the process. ONOE would address this, potentially increasing voter participation. As for elected representatives, with longer tenures, they would have more time to engage with their constituencies, assess the effectiveness of policies, and make necessary adjustments, thus improving the quality of governance. Conducting elections requires the mobilisation of government machinery and security forces. This can divert resources away from critical services.
A synchronised cycle would minimise such disruptions. While the idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’ holds promise, there are several concerns that must be addressed. First, it would require constitutional amendments, which necessitate broad political consensus. Second, conducting simultaneous elections is a logistical challenge that needs planning. Along with ONOE, India needs electoral reforms to address issues like campaign financing, transparency, and criminalisation of politics to ensure fair and free polls. It’s time to rise above petty politics and prioritise the interests of the nation. In embracing ONOE, India has the opportunity to set an example of effective governance for the world to follow.
Director, Public Policy Research Centre
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