The Modi Government’s decision to appoint a committee headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind to explore the possibilities of ‘One Nation, One Election’ (ONOE) has stirred a hornet’s nest.
Thrown into utter disarray, political parties that are trying to band together on the only plank of denigrating the BJP under PM Modi have alleged that the move amounts to subversion of the Constitution. The truth, however, is that ONOE has been among the critical reforms in the BJP’s agenda. In fact, it was clearly articulated during the Presidential Address to Parliament on January 29, 2018.
The former President mentioned this as one of the reforms proposed by the government. “Indian citizens are concerned about frequent elections in one part of the country or another, which adversely impact the economy and development,” he had said.
No bolt from blue
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken emphatically about the desirability of having one election across the country.
Therefore, the idea is not a bolt from the blue. It enables the Government to concentrate on governance once the elections are over. Today, there is some election or the other in some part of the country, at least every three months.
The entire attention of the country becomes focused on these elections. From the Prime Minister to Union ministers, from chief ministers to ministers to MPs, MLAs and panchayat members, everyone gets deeply involved with the elections. This leads to a virtual paralysis of the administration at various levels, and in varying degrees.
Decisions get stalled
By and large, no decisions are taken during elections due to the model code of conduct that comes in force. Therefore, key policy decisions get delayed both at the Centre and in the states and local bodies.
Even when no fresh policy decision is necessary, implementation of ongoing projects gets derailed during election periods as the political executive as well as Government officials would be engaged with election duties, neglecting routine administration. This reflects badly on India’s growth prospects and work to the detriment of the common man. One of the main reasons for political corruption is frequent elections. An enormous amount of money has to be raised at every election.
Election expenses of political parties can be reduced drastically if elections are held simultaneously. There would be no duplication of fundraising. This would save the public and business community from a lot of pressure for election donations, multiple times.
Expenses incurred by the Election Commission can also be reduced if elections are held simultaneously. A large number of police personnel and paramilitary forces are engaged to ensure that elections are conducted peacefully. This involves massive redeployment, involving huge costs.
It also diverts key law enforcement personnel from their critical functions. Such deployment can be curtailed with simultaneous elections.
The move will also clean other ailments that have crept into the political system and all parties should welcome it. If elections are held only at specific periods, horse-trading could come to an end. Today, even with the antidefection law in force, loopholes lead to horse-trading.
Frequent elections have led to a situation where many state governments are broke. With a smaller number of elections, their finances could be in better shape. This will save a tremendous amount of time and money spent in updating electoral rolls. It will also make it easier for the citizen as too frequent elections disturb their normal life.