On June 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an all-party meeting to discuss an idea he has been trying to push since his first term—One Nation, One Election. After a meeting that went on for a few hours, Modi said he will set up a panel to look into the issues related to the One Nation, One Election plan.
Modi’s One Nation, One Election concept has been met with strong criticism—many opposition leaders have either refused to engage, citing more urgent national problems or said the idea is undemocratic altogether.
At the end of the meeting, Modi said a panel will be formed to look into both sides of the debate and advise the government on the best path forward—likely the path with the least resistance for the BJP.
What is One Nation, One Election?
One Nation, One Election is BJP’s idea of conducting simultaneous elections, instead of in phases. The party has mentioned this idea since the ’90s and had even included it in its 2019 manifesto.
In 1999, at the all-party meeting to discuss simultaneous elections, the AIADMK, SP, and YSRCP supported the idea, while the CPI(M), BSP, TMC, and TDP opposed it. The Congress did not have a strong opinion at the time.
Modi’s administration believes that holding elections on a single day in a year instead of over a period of time in different pockets of the country as is constitutional custom is a cost-cutting initiative.
Former chief election commissioner T S Krishnamurthy said the concept of simultaneous elections is “attractive” but requires many administrative arrangements in terms of security and poll workers.
Key opposition leaders skip all-party meeting
Although Modi invited all parties with a representative in the Lok Sabha, not all of them showed up. Many key opposition leaders chose to stay away.
No leader from the DMK, Samajwadi Party, and Bahujan Samajwadi Party showed up. AAP President and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, TRS President and CM of Telangana K Chandrashekar Rao, and BSP President Mayawati also skipped the meeting.
However, AAP’s Raghav Chadha and TRS Working President KT Rama Rao, Chandrashekar Rao’s son, attended the meeting in their leaders’ places. TDP Chief Chandrababu Naidu also sent Jayadev Galla in his stead.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, SP Chief Akhilesh Yadav, and NCP Sharad Pawar attended the meeting. But UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi did not.
Why are they against it?
TMC Chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee did not attend, saying the government should first circulate a white paper (research document) on the implications of such a policy and allow leaders to consult with experts on their own.
Mayawati said the government’s time would be better spent discussing the debate on EVMs versus paper ballots and the threat of hacking and vote manipulation. She added that the One Nation, One Election talks were meant to distract the country from other pertinent matters.
CPI Chief D Raja and CPI(M) Chief Sitaram Yechury are not opposed to the idea of simultaneous polling but have reservations about how the change will be implemented.
“They had a difference of opinion, but they did not oppose the idea. They just opposed the implementation of it,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
However, the Indian Express quoted Yechury saying that simultaneous elections were “fundamentally anti-federal and anti-democratic, and thus against the Constitution”.
News18 also quoted Raja, who said the idea is “merely an extension of the syndrome the BJP wants to impose of one nation-one culture-one nation-one language”.
Many others who attended the meeting supported Modi’s One Nation, One Election idea.
JDU’s Nitish Kumar, NC’s Farooq Abdullah, SAD’s Sukhbir Badal, PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, and YSRCP’s Jagan Mohan Reddy all attended the all-party meeting.
Biju Janata Dal (BJD) President and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, who was also present, said simultaneously elections will quicken the pace of development.
“Frequent elections affect the pace of development and also rock the spirit of cooperative federalism. The BJD will fully support the idea of ‘one nation, one election’,” said Patnaik.
How can Modi implement the idea?
The Law Commission, an advisory body within the Law Ministry, recommended holding simultaneous elections in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies (except in Jammu and Kashmir) to save money for development programmes.
The Commission said India did conduct its first four elections simultaneously till 1967 but changed procedure when some assemblies and the Lok Sabha were dissolved in 1968 and 1969, respectively.
Regardless, the Commission said the move is impossible “within the existing framework of the Constitution”.
This means, to put the One Nation, One Election plan into motion, Modi will need to amend the Constitution. The government also has to amend the Representation of the People Act 1951 and Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies.
For a constitutional amendment, two-thirds of both Houses of Parliament need to pass the bill. The NDA government is hovering around 341 seats, but a two-thirds majority of 361 requires some support from the Left.
The Hindu says if One Nation, One Election goes into a vote and does not pass, both a vote of no-confidence and dissolution of the House could be implemented—real risks for the NDA if MPs defect from their current parties.
In 2017, former CEC OP Rawat had said the EC has the capacity to conduct simultaneous elections, but the matter has to be resolved politically first.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.
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