In the grand spectacle of Indian politics, the discourse surrounding One Nation, One Election has taken centre-stage with former President Ram Nath Kovind inviting suggestions from the public on it till mid-January. The proposal would synchronise elections at the national and state levels. However, this political move comes with its constitutional challenges, potential erosion of the regional perspectives, and a hefty price tag that the government has to bear for its implementation.
Constitutionally, the path to realising One Nation One Election demands an amendment to Articles 83(2) and 172(1) of the Constitution, since these provisions mention that elections are to be conducted every five years.
Let’s picture this. If the winning political party loses a majority or the vote of confidence in the House and the opposition does not have the numbers to form a new government, then the people would be left with two rather undemocratic options to choose from since elections cannot be held anew. Further, Article 368 demands that a constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority in the House. However, recent trends of suspending dissenting members of parliament raise eyebrows that the amendment might slide through without the full strength of voices in the House.
The financial burden that the government has to bear in implementing One Nation, One Election is the elephant in the room. With an estimated requirement of 25 Lakh electronic voting machines (EVMs) and an equal number of voter-verified voter audit trails, the Election Commission finds itself with just 12 lakh EVMs.This made me question: can our country afford such a monumental expense merely to streamline its election cycles?
Another key concern lies in the impact of India’s federal structure. If a no-confidence motion dissolves the central government, as seen in 1998, would it trigger a domino effect and dissolve the state legislatures as well? This raises doubts about the federal principles on which the Constitution is anchored.
One Nation, One Election also threatens the strongholds of regional political parties. Parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, All India Trinamool Congress, and Janata Dal (United) uphold the principle of addressing the regional concerns of their constituents. According to IDFC data, there is a 77 per cent chance that voters would cast their votes for the same political party at both the Centre and state if the elections were synchronised. The trend of choosing the same party for both state and the Centre goes back to 1999 when 68 per cent of voters chose the same party; the share was 77 per cent in 2004, 76 per cent in 2009 and 86 per cent in 2014.
Hence the One Nation, One Elections proposal risks muzzling or diluting the distinct regional voices in Indian politics. In a country defined by a pluralistic democracy, this push from the government concerns not only the federal structure—it can also reshape the nature of voter behaviour.
As we delve deeper into the intricate fabric of our democratic ideals, a crucial question arises—who will address the potential social consequences that could arise in India where elections and social divisions are closely interconnected? Numerous experts have raised similar concerns and advocated for separate elections to mitigate the potential social repercussions. The rationale is that holding simultaneous elections may encourage political parties to concentrate on a singular narrative, often centred around issues such as religion, as a strategy to secure votes. On the other hand, if elections transpire at different intervals, there is a reduced likelihood of the political discourse becoming overly focused on one particular narrative, fostering a more nuanced approach and reflecting the varied concerns of citizens.
In essence, the call for separate elections is rooted in safeguarding the democratic process from potential pitfalls that might arise when political campaigns are dominated by a singular narrative. The approach of conducting separate elections at the Centre and state levels seeks to preserve a balanced and inclusive discourse, allowing for a better understanding of the multifaceted social fabric, which is the backbone of our nation. The intricacies of India’s social landscape necessitate a careful examination of the potential consequences of One Nation, One Election on election dynamics.
As a political representative of people’s voices and a vigilant citizen, it’s imperative to question whether this proposition signifies a political revolution or a political facade. In the journey of navigating the intricacies of the government’s proposal, it is essential to find an equilibrium between administrative efficiency and safeguarding democratic principles. The success of any political revolution lies in amplifying democratic values, fostering inclusivity, and upholding the principles of representation. So, let us approach the proposal of One Nation, One Election with a careful eye toward the potential implications on the core of our democratic values.
In the words of Brazilian sociologist Fernando Henrique Cardoso, “Democracy is not just a question of having a vote. It consists of strengthening each citizen’s possibility and capacity to participate in the deliberations involved in the society.” As we navigate the complexities of One Nation, One Election, let’s ensure that this democratic experiment does not overshadow the diverse narratives that make our democracy truly beautiful. The strength of our democratic foundation lies in embracing the varied perspectives and acknowledging a multitude of voices.
(Views are personal)
Member of Lok Sabha and Standing Committee on IT & Communications