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One Nation, One Election: Highlights of the Kovind panel’s recommendations

Context- The High-level Committee (HLC) on One Nation, One Election submitted a comprehensive 21-volume, 18,626-page report to President Droupadi Murmu on Thursday, March 14. The report, which contains 11 chapters and additional annexures, provides detailed insights into the proposal of One Nation, One Election.

Alongside the report, the government has also published a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to address key questions and provide answers on the proposal as per the government documents. The aim is to provide a thorough understanding of the One Nation, One Election initiative.

What is meant by simultaneous elections?

  • “One Nation, One Election” refers to the concept of holding simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha, all state Legislative Assemblies, and urban and rural local bodies (municipalities and panchayats).
  • As of now, these elections are conducted independently, each following its own timeline based on the term of the respective elected body. The proposal aims to synchronize these elections to occur at the same time.

Is this the first time that simultaneous elections are proposed to be held in India?

  • Simultaneous elections, also known as “One Nation, One Election”, were held in seven states of India in 1957, following efforts by the central and state governments, political parties, and the Election Commission of India.
  • These states were Bihar, Bombay, Madras, Mysore, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. This practice was prevalent until the fourth general elections in 1967.
  • However, due to the dismissal of state governments before the end of their term by successive central governments and the collapse of coalition governments at the state and central levels, elections began to be held at different times throughout the year.
  • As per the HLC report, India now sees five to six elections annually. If municipal and panchayat elections are included, the number of elections held each year would increase significantly.

So what is the need for holding simultaneous elections?

The concept of “One Nation, One Election” has been a topic of discussion in various public forums, especially since 2014 when the current government came to power and Prime Minister Narendra Modi endorsed the idea. The government’s FAQs list several reasons in favor of holding simultaneous elections:

  1. Economic Considerations: Frequent elections burden the government exchequer with additional expenditure. The cost increases further when the expenditure incurred by political parties is also considered.
  2. Stability and Certainty: Asynchronous elections cause uncertainty and instability, disrupting supply chains, business investments, and economic growth.
  3. Citizen Convenience: Disruption of government machinery due to asynchronous elections causes hardship to citizens.
  4. Efficient Use of Resources: Frequent use of government officials and security forces for election duties adversely affects the discharge of their regular duties.
  5. Policy Continuity: Frequent imposition of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during elections causes policy paralysis and slows down the pace of developmental programs.
  6. Voter Fatigue: Staggered elections can lead to ‘voters’ fatigue’, posing a significant challenge in ensuring their participation in the democratic process.

Who took up the job of studying this issue?

  • The High-level Committee (HLC), also known as the Kovind panel after its chairman, former President Ram Nath Kovind, was formed in September 2023 to delve into the issue of “One Nation, One Election”.
  • The panel included Home Minister Amit Shah, former Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash C Kashyap, former chairman of the 15th Finance Commission N K Singh, Senior Advocate Harish Salve, and former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Sanjay Kothari.
  • Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal was a special invitee to the Committee. The panel held a total of 65 meetings at the Jodhpur Officer’s Hostel in New Delhi, with the final meeting on March 10.
  • The committee referred to numerous reports and studies and engaged with a wide range of stakeholders.

What has the committee recommended?

The High-level Committee (HLC) has made the following recommendations regarding the “One Nation, One Election” proposal:

1. Amending the Constitution:

  • The Constitution should be amended to enable simultaneous elections in two steps. The first step involves holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies, which doesn’t require ratification by the states.
  • The second step involves synchronizing elections to municipalities and panchayats with the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies such that local body elections are held within 100 days of the Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections. This step requires ratification by at least half of the states.

2. Single Electoral Roll and Election ID:

  • The Constitution should be amended to allow the Election Commission of India to prepare a single electoral roll and election ID for use in elections at all three tiers of government, in consultation with the State Election Commissions.
  • These amendments will require ratification by at least half of the states.

3. In Case of a Hung House, etc.: In the event of a hung House, a no-confidence motion, or any similar event, fresh elections should be held to constitute the new Lok Sabha or state Assembly for the unexpired term of the House.

4. Meeting Logistics Requirements: The committee recommends that the Election Commission of India should plan and estimate in advance, in consultation with the State Election Commissions, and take steps for the deployment of manpower, polling personnel, security forces, EVMs/VVPATs, etc., to ensure free and fair simultaneous elections are held at all three tiers of the government.

Conclusion- The “One Nation, One Election” proposal, which aims to synchronize elections at all three tiers of government in India, has been thoroughly examined by the High-level Committee (HLC), also known as the Kovind panel. The panel’s comprehensive report, along with a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) published by the government, provides detailed insights into the proposal. The HLC has made several recommendations, including amending the Constitution, creating a single electoral roll and election ID, and addressing scenarios such as a hung House.

The proposal, if implemented, could potentially streamline the electoral process, reduce expenditure, and enhance policy continuity. However, it would require significant logistical planning and constitutional amendments, some of which would need ratification by at least half of the states.

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