New Delhi: The idea of ‘One Nation, One Poll’ is feasible and has several advantages but mechanisms need to be worked out to prevent early dissolution of state assemblies to sync them with the Parliamentary elections, said Election Commissioner (EC) Sushil Chandra.
In an interview with ThePrint, Chandra said amendments could be required to implement the concept of the ‘One Nation, One Poll’ to ensure an alternate government is formed if the previous dispensation loses majority.
This apart, changes are also required in the anti-defection law to prevent assemblies from getting dissolved and not disturb the cycle of elections, he added.
“There will have to be a way to ensure that if a government loses majority, another government can be appointed… The anti-defection law might also have to be synchronised with ‘One Nation, One Poll’ to ensure that elections happen at one time.”
The ‘One Nation One Poll’ is the concept of holding simultaneous polls wherein a citizen casts his/her vote for all the three tiers of government — the Lok Sabha, the state legislature and the municipal bodies or the panchayats — on the same day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a fresh pitch for the idea last June.
While Modi and his BJP have made a case for holding simultaneous elections, arguing that it is imperative to ensure uninterrupted development in the country, the opposition expressed serious concerns over it, calling it a threat to India’s vibrant federal structure.
Articles 243K and 243ZA, which deal with elections to panchayats and municipalities in the states, will have to be amended to have a common electoral roll across the country, as these give the state election commissions the power of superintendence and direction of these elections, as well as the control of preparation of electoral rolls.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) enjoys the power of superintendence, direction and control of state and Lok Sabha polls under Article 324(1) of the Constitution.
One Nation One Poll a ‘desirable idea’
Elaborating on the feasibility and need for simultaneous elections, Chandra said: “It is definitely an implementable and desirable idea.
“If state and national elections are conducted together, all the election staff will be deployed once in five years, Central Armed Police Forces will be deployed once in five years, so much government expenditure will be reduced, and the Model Code of Conduct will also be implemented once in five years, and there won’t be frequent hindrance to schemes,” he said.
However, Chandra said that political consensus for it is crucial as it would require constitutional amendments.
Asked about the government’s push for a common electoral roll last month for Lok Sabha, state elections and the local polls, Chandra said, “It would facilitate simultaneous polls.”
He added, “Common electoral rolls would help reduce duplication of effort since both the Election Commission and state election commissions maintain electoral rolls… It would lead to greater integration if there could be one electoral roll.”
The move for a common electoral roll would also require political consensus since it would need constitutional amendments, Chandra added.
On Bihar polls
Speaking on the upcoming Bihar elections, Chandra said that the commission is “very actively considering” increasing the expenditure limit for candidates.
Currently, the expenditure limit for each candidate is Rs 28 lakh and Rs 70 lakh in assembly and national polls, respectively.
Certain political parties, including the BJP, have asked the EC to consider increasing the expenditure limit as campaigning for elections during Covid would increase the expenditure per candidate.
Asked how the commission would ensure a healthy voter turnout for polls amid Covid, Chandra said, “We are doing everything possible to make the elections safe… People are going to markets, etc. Now, at a polling booth, there would be much stricter social distancing norms and precautions.
“People should not fear coming to the booths,” he added.
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