Talking point: One nation one poll

Talking point: One nation one poll

The Narendra Modi-led government’s proposal to introduce simultaneous elections will erode India’s federal system and take power away from the states, experts warned.

A panel discussion on ‘One nation, One Election’ saw an intense debate on the proposal here on Sunday, with a Congress leader cautioning that such a move will pave the way for dictatorship.

While simultaneous voting is a feature of several democracies, notably the United States, voting in India is usually a long-drawn process. 

On the matter of simultaneous voting system endorsed by the BJP, Alok Prasanna Kumar of the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy said research shows it usually results in a rise in the vote share of national parties, while mitigating the influence of regional parties, such as the TMC and JD(S).

“While this may not change the outcome of an election, but it offers a structural advantage to parties with a national footprint,” Kumar explained.

Dictatorial powers

Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda of the Congress said if he were to grandstand, then he could describe the Centre’s move to introduce simultaneous elections as part of a larger strategy to assume dictatorial powers, through the erosion of the system of checks and balances posed by regional or state governments.

One panelist later described such a development a bit of a stretch, but the comments appeared to bristle Tejasvi Surya, the BJP’s Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha from Bengaluru South, especially after he was confronted by a question from moderator Neena Gopal, about whether or not the BJP was using constitutional powers to expand into a supremacist party.

Primary motivation

“We don’t need to do that. We are self-sufficient in terms of our organisational confidence,” Surya said and went on to make the point that one of the primary motivations of the BJP to introduce swift voting is to get the elections done with quickly and get to the task of governance.

The repetition of the electoral exercise is a “humongous” administrative task, he said.

“Shouldn’t we be making elections less time consuming and less interfering in day-to-day governance to ensure that governance is not stalled and ensure that there is greater political stability which necessarily will save us from no governance?” he asked.

Constitutionalist Aditya Sondhi said the move would fundamentally infringe the states’ rights.

“Lumping states and the Centre together in a single election makes it a general election en masse and will prompt people not to vote independently for the state’s priorities. That is not good for a federal structure,” said Aditya Sondhi.