One Nation, One Election — What Is It All About?
Let’s get one thing out of the way to start with — Electoral reforms are needed in this country and the sooner they are brought in the better. All sides seem to agree on this — BJP, Congress, Bureaucrats, the common people. Each might have their own bone of contention and might not agree on the specifics but it is widely understood that electoral process is flawed. So how does one go about fixing it? Well when there are multiple viewpoints on what’s flawed with something, it follows that the solutions will also be of different nature for everyone.
The ruling party, BJP, has come up with what is called ‘One nation, one election’. It was announced today that they will be holding 25 webinars in the coming weeks to build popular support for this idea of theirs. These webinars will be attended by senior BJP leaders along with members of academia and legal fraternity.
Since coming to power, Modi has constantly referred to it — in public rallies, in parliament. Last year he even invited members of opposition party to discuss this issue. Opposition leaders chose to skip the meeting and instead called for a meeting on EVMS, saying we ought to return to ballot paper. They too believed that changes were needed in how elections are conducted in India, but according to them one of the solutions was return to ballot paper, instead of the current use of EVMs which they felt could be manipulated to the ruling party’s advantage. They felt ‘One nation, One election’ would further erode the election process.
There was one major exception though — Milind Deora, a Congress leader, seemed to be supportive of the idea and said the Government should keep trying to build consensus for it.
Why have simultaneous elections?
One Nation, One Election basically means that all elections (Local body, State assembly, Lok Sabha) should be held simultaneously so that political parties are not in election mode all the time and can instead focus on development. It is true that we have a few major elections every year and political parties tend to put a lot of money and effort and other resources into these, when it can be used in more pressing matters for the common man, for matters they are actually elected for.
Seems sensible. Why oppose it then?
While the basic argument does make sense, critics fear that the reason the ruling party is pushing the idea so vehemently is that they want to establish one party rule. It is possible that if all elections were to be held at the same time, people would vote for one party, which in current case given the charisma of Modi, would be BJP. This argument however seems speculative given that voters have learnt to differentiate between local and national elections.
Expert opinion is divided: Government think-tank NITI Aayog and the Law Commission are supportive of the idea, while a group of former bureaucrats recently expressed their concern.
Perhaps these series of webinars, if held in a neutral manner, will help people develop their own opinion of the idea.
Ultimately, it’s important that Government, as Deora suggested, tries to build a consensus on the idea and it is only given serious consideration when there’s a general acceptance for it amongst the people, and even the opposition parties.
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