An idea whose time may not have come

Meeting over “One nation, One election”:

  • The debate around “one nation, one election” has been resurrected, with the Prime Minister calling the meeting of leaders of all political parties.
  • The leaders will look to evolve a method of holding Assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously.

The idea has been in discussion for a while:

  • The Law Commission had recommended simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and the local bodies as far back as in 1999.
  • The matter was examined by a Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2015, and was also referred to the Election Commission of India (EC).
  • Both supported it in principle.

Image result for electoral reform

Problems with dispersed election schedule:

Huge expenditure on elections:

  • It is becoming more and more difficult and expensive to contest elections.
  • The 2019 general election was the most expensive on record; a whopping Rs 60,000 crore was reportedly spent on the whole exercise.
  • Given that there is no cap on the expenditure incurred by political parties, they spend obscene amounts of money in every election.

Governance impacted:

  • Frequent elections hamper the normal functioning of the government and disrupt civic life.
  • This happens because the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into operation as soon as the EC announces the election dates.
  • This means that the government cannot announce any new schemes during this period. This results in what is often referred to as a policy paralysis.
  • The government cannot make any new appointments or transfer/ appoint officials.
  • The entire government manpower is involved in the conduct of elections.

Communalism and Casteism peak during elections:

  • Elections are the time when communalism, casteism and corruption are at their peak.
  • Frequent elections mean that there is no respite from these evils.
  • This has directly resulted in the souring of the political discourse.

Always on election mode:

  • With so many states and 3-tier democratic system, in India, as soon as one election finishes, another starts.
  • A large section of the security forces, bureaucracy and political machinery having to be mobilised for up to 200 days a year on account of electioneering.


Reasons for opposition to the idea

Implementation will be difficult:

  • The implementation of “one nation, one election” raises questions over its implementation.
  • For instance, the premature dissolution of the Lok Sabha could happen any time, even before the term of five years is over. In such an eventuality, would we also dissolve all State Assemblies?
  • Similarly, what happens when one of the State Assemblies is dissolved? Will the entire country go to polls again?
  • This would be difficult to work around considering the nature of Indian democracy.

Not all schemes are banned during MCC:

  • As for the implementation of schemes of the government during the MCC period, only the new schemes are stopped as these could amount to enticing/bribing voters on the eve of elections.
  • The ongoing programmes are unhindered.
  • Even new announcements that are in urgent public interest can be made with the prior approval of the EC.

Accountability through fear of frequent elections:

  • Also, frequent elections are not so bad for accountability after all.
  • They ensure that the politicians reach out to voters regularly.

Job creation:

  • Creation of work opportunities at the grass-root level is another big upside.

Good for federalism:

  • The most important consideration is the federal spirit, which requires that local and national issues are not mixed up.


Reform will not be easy:

  • Having simultaneous Parliament, Assembly, civic and Panchayat polls once every five years and completed within a month or so would save money, resources and manpower.
  • Apart from reducing election expenses for both political parties and Government, this will ensure certain stability for State Governments.
  • From the point of view of EC, simultaneous elections make perfect sense because the voters for all three tiers are the same, polling booths are the same and staff/security is the same.
  • However, there are also arguments against the conduct of simultaneous elections.
  • A wider deliberation is needed for a range of reforms must be considered.


Alternative suggestions to deal with the problems that arise due to frequent elections:

Cap on campaign expenditure:

  • The problem of uncontrolled campaign expenditure can be remedied by introducing a cap on expenditure by political parties.
  • State funding of political parties based on their poll performance also is a suggestion worth considering.

Reduce poll duration:

  • The problems associated with a multi-phased election have been getting compounded, with more issues being added to the list with every election.
  • Violence, social media-related transgressions and issues related to the enforcement of the MCC will reduce if the election is conducted in a single day.
  • The poll duration can be reduced from two-three months to about 33 to 35 days if more Central armed police forces can be provided.



  • To conclude, it is undeniable that simultaneous elections would be a far-reaching electoral reform.
  • If it is to be implemented, there needs to be a solid political consensus, and an agenda of comprehensive electoral reforms should supplement it.
  • The pros and cons need to be appropriately assessed and practical alternatives sincerely considered.
  • It is good that the government continues to encourage a debate on the subject rather than forcibly pushing it through.




GS Paper II: Polity

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