Essence of democracy
The possible implementation of the ‘One Nation-One Election’ theory raises more issues than it supposedly resolves
The PM has once again brought to the forefront, the 'One Nation-One Election' theory. In all probabilities, he appears to have resolved to hold simultaneous polls as his dictum. No debate, no opinion gathering, no consensus and nothing of that sort but a flash of declaration. He said that his idea is not a matter for debate but it is what the country needs! Whether right or wrong, good or bad, practicable or not, in a country like ours which has democratically elected leaders at national, state and local level it is essential to garnering the opinion of many but no single view, before making such a fundamental policy proclamation.
No doubt that frequent elections resulting in frequent (MCC) model code of conduct hamper normal governance and development programs of concerned governments. But the solution is not doing away with this and instead it is better to remodify the procedure of imposing MCC. There are umpteen ways to overcome the hazards of MCC and 'One Nation-One Election' shall be the least and last choice. The talk of saving taxpayers' money by politicians, when it suits them, is ridiculous. Elections are pillars of democracy and expenditure on elections is an investment but not waste. Instead of calling as frequent elections let us say elections as and when necessitated.
There is no truth in saying that a lot of money could be saved if elections are held just once in five years, as the money (black money) would never be any problem for those who contest elections. It is the corporate sector, which should worry about the huge expenditure incurred during elections. But they never complain about the excessive infusion of money in elections because of the enormous benefits they will reap after elections.
None of these claims has any empirical evidence to support them. Frequent elections have not affected the quality of governance or decision-making. Many major decisions with far-reaching impact on the economy and other areas of national life were taken during those decades when elections were held at different times. The decision of demonetisation was done just a couple of months before assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other states.
The history of elections in India had its beginning with simultaneous elections. The first general election in 1951-52 saw the country voting for both the Union and state governments. This continued for many years until the 'aayaram and gayaraam' culture dawned on Indian political scenario. With Congress Party, which once was a monopoly party at the Centre and states, losing elections in state after state and with frequent interruptions due to President rule the frequent elections started thus disrupting the simultaneous elections. The indiscriminate use of Article 356 of the Constitution for the dismissal
of state governments and
dissolution of assemblies before terms ended has been the main culprit for frequent elections.
Moreover, simultaneous elections are not a practical proposition though the Election Commission is ready to execute it. There are many practical problems surrounded by it. For instance, if it is decided that elections to the Lok Sabha and all state assemblies will be held together in 2022, what will happen to the assemblies elected in 2020 and 2021? Will they be dissolved? Then what will be the term of the government that comes to power? An assembly is elected for five years. It can be dissolved only when the government in that state cannot carry on, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, and also when no alternative government is possible. Otherwise, the constitution does not permit the dissolution of assemblies before the end of their term.
If the constitutional machinery in states breaking down after simultaneous elections are held, necessitating dissolution of the assemblies prematurely, will these states be under the president's rule till the next elections? Or the elections will be held for the left-out period? These questions, and many others, remain to be answered. These are debatable but cannot be just a single individual's dictum.
It is pertinent to note that the nation witnessed the imposition of President's rule on more than a hundred occasions, which dislodged the popularly elected government in states. In most cases, the President's rule was imposed at the discretion of the governor motivated by the political government in power at the Centre. The decision was more political than otherwise. Instead of curbing such unhealthy practices, the theory of simultaneous elections is tantamount to undermining Indian democratic fabric and its roots, resulting in erosion of political plurality.
India has the distinction of fashioning local self-government and holding elections to them in a democratic manner at periodic intervals. With the 72nd and 73rd Amendments, high standards were set in establishing people elected local self-governments at grassroots. Clubbing these three-tiers, the national level, the state level and the local level, and holding elections at the same time, will not yield any useful purpose but destroy the very federal fabric of our nation.
As it is the federal spirit of the Indian Constitution and the liberty of the state government is weakened in a systematic manner beyond repair. Constitution founders designed a two-tier system of Parliamentary democracy with a great vision and foresight. They have purposefully created subjects under the Centre, State Lists and also a Concurrent List. These have been willfully eroded, often trampling upon them to consolidate the power at the Centre. The honourable Prime Minister, as a supreme leader of our country, should act and exhibit himself like a statesman but not as an ordinary politician leading to infringement of constitution and federal structure.
Contemporary developments all over the globe have once again demonstrated that the majority of people want a vibrant, working, transparent democracy. It is not correct that leaders think that their theories are the right ones for the country and whatever they think for the country should be accepted by all. It is high time that the PM realises that he is heading one of the largest, vibrant and greatest parliamentary democracies in the world modelled on the Westminster model.
With inputs from VJM Divakar. The writer is the Chief Public Relations Officer to the CM of Telangana. Views expressed are personal