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‘One nation, one poll’ is an unworkable idea

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jul 12, 2018, 1:17 am IST
Updated : Jul 12, 2018, 1:17 am IST

To amend the Constitution to allow for simultaneous polls is likely to be an impossibility.

Two-thirds support is needed in Parliament, followed by support in a majority of states. (Photo: File)
 Two-thirds support is needed in Parliament, followed by support in a majority of states. (Photo: File)

The idea of compulsorily holding simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and all state Assemblies, pushed by the Narendra Modi government, is a conceptual absurdity. That is why it wasn’t laid down in the Constitution from the very beginning.

To amend the Constitution to allow for simultaneous polls is likely to be an impossibility. Two-thirds support is needed in Parliament, followed by support in a majority of states.

This of course is the practical aspect, but it is precisely on the practical aspect that the BJP has been pushing this idea. It says simultaneous state and national polls will save costs and allow legislators to focus on their work for a full five years, instead of being distracted by frequent elections.

However, even in this vast country, the total cost of state and national polls, according to a parliamentary committee, is around Rs 4,500 crores.

Is this really a such a large sum to spend on deepening democracy? If we think proportionately, it’s about a third of what Nirav Modi has run away with.

To save money further, going by the same logic, the Law Commission, if we don’t watch out, may well propose an election every seven or 10 years instead of five. We might as well elect a leader and party for life in the way China and Turkey have done recently.

A government elected for five years in a state or at the Centre can fall due to various reasons. If a legislature’s life is compulsorily stretched, or shortened, to meet the needs of simultaneous polls, the life of the Karnataka Assembly, that has just been elected, will be cut short by four and a half years, doubling the election cost in that state — to say nothing of making a mockery of the recently-expressed preference of the state’s electorate.

On the other hand, by this example, states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where the BJP may be apprehensive about facing the electorate, will find the life of their legislatures merrily extended. Will this be done under a law that is reminiscent of what was done during the Emergency to extend the life of Parliament?

As the issue is debated, most parties are taking a view on the basis of their calculation whether simultaneous polls will give them another shot soon after a failure. The BJP of course also cites “one nation, one election”, in keeping with its hunger for nationwide uniformity in all aspects of life, despite the country’s diversity in customs, traditions, languages and religions.

The Congress on Tuesday opposed the BJP’s plan. The Samajwadi Party supports it. So it’s not a communal/secular discussion. The idea shortchanges genuine processes of democracy and can only work if a law is passed making five years a fixed term for all legislatures.

Tags: parliamentary committee, narendra modi