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Ramnath Kovind Panel Report on Simultaneous Elections

Context: Former President Ram Nath Kovind’s led panel report on ‘One Nation, One Election’ or simultaneous elections, could be placed before the Union Cabinet as part of the 100-day agenda of the Ministry of Law and Justice. 

Recommendations of the Ramnath Kovind Panel Report

Two-step approach: The committee recommended a two-step approach to holding simultaneous elections.

  • As a first step, hold simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s Parliament) and State Assemblies.
  • Within 100 days of the general election, conduct polls for municipal and panchayat bodies in the next phase.

What are Simultaneous Elections?

  • Simultaneous elections, also known as synchronized elections or one-nation-one-elections, refer to the practice of holding multiple elections for various levels of government (such as national and state) at the same time or on a synchronized schedule.
  • This would mean that the voters will cast their vote for electing members of the LS and the state assemblies on a single day, at the same time (or in a phased manner as the case may be).

History of Simultaneous Elections in India

  • The concept of simultaneous elections is not new to the country.
  • Post-adoption of the Constitution of India, the First General Elections to the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and all Vidhan Sabhas (State Legislative Assemblies) were held simultaneously in 1951-52.
  • This practice continued in three subsequent General Elections held in the years 1957, 1962 and 1967.
  • However, due to the premature dissolution of some State Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969, the cycle of synchronized elections got disrupted. In 1970, the Lok Sabha itself was dissolved prematurely and fresh elections were held in 1971.
  • Thus, since the 1967 elections, the practice of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas could not be maintained and the elections have still not been realigned.

Arguments for and Against Simultaneous Elections

Arguments in Favour Arguments Against
  • Cost Reduction: Simultaneous elections would reduce these costs by eliminating the need for separate election cycles.
  • Increased Voter Turnout: Because voters would only need to participate in elections once every few years, reducing voter fatigue.
  • Efficient Use of Security Forces: Frequent elections require the deployment of security forces, which could be better utilized for other internal security purposes if elections were synchronized.
  • Focus on Long-Term Governance: Frequent elections can encourage politicians to prioritize short-term electoral gains over long-term policy and governance. Simultaneous elections might lead to more stable and strategic policymaking.
  • Level Playing Field: Smaller parties often struggle to compete with larger parties with more resources during frequent elections. Simultaneous elections could level the playing field by reducing overall election expenses.
  • Difficult to Synchronize: Maintaining synchronized elections in a diverse democracy like India could be challenging, especially if governments lose confidence in their assemblies.
  • Impact on Voter Behavior: Simultaneous elections might lead to voters confusing national and state issues, potentially undermining the distinctiveness of state elections.
  • Impact on Regional Parties: Simultaneous elections might favor large national parties, potentially disadvantaging regional parties.
  • Accountability: Regular elections force governments to stay responsive to the will of the people. Fixed terms without the fear of recall could lead to a lack of accountability and more autocratic tendencies.
  • Constitutional and Federalism Concerns: Implementing simultaneous elections may require changes to the constitution and could potentially infringe on the federal nature of the Indian political system.

The committee has made the following recommendations:

Amending the Constitution

The Constitution should be amended to enable simultaneous elections in two steps.

  • In the first step, simultaneous elections will be held to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. For this, no ratification by the states will be required for the constitutional amendment.
  • In the second step, elections to municipalities and the panchayats will be synchronised with elections to Lok Sabha and state Assemblies in such a way that local body elections are held within 100 days of the elections to Lok Sabha and state Assemblies. This will require ratification by not less than one-half of the states.

Single Electoral Roll and Election ID

  • For the purpose of preparing a single electoral roll and electoral photo identity cards for use in elections to all the three tiers of government, the Constitution should be amended, so that the Election Commission of India can prepare a single electoral roll and election ID in consultation with the State Election Commissions.
  • These amendments will require ratification by not less than one-half of the states.

In the case of a Hung Assembly/House

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

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