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Thursday, 20 June 2019

One nation, one election

'One nation one election' in India: Difficult to see tangible benefits, but list of drawbacks continues to grow

In a bid to build a consensus on holding simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened the meeting of presidents of all political parties for which 40 were invited. 21 parties attended the meeting while three shared their views on the subject in writing.

Among the notable absentees were Congress president Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee, BSP supremo Mayawati, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, DMK chief M.K. Stalin, TRS chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Admi Party(AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal. TRS was, however, represented by its working president K.T. Rama Rao.

A committee for giving “time-bound” suggestions on the issue of ‘one nation, one election’ will be set up by Mr. Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced after the meeting.
Should India hold simultaneous elections to the Parliament, all state Assemblies, and to the local bodies? This is the basic question underlying discussions on the Modi government’s ‘one nation, one election’ (ONOE) proposal. On Wednesday, the PM called for an all party meeting to discuss ONOE, among other issues. Several regional parties gave the meeting a pass, while others used the meeting to bargain a better deal for their states in return for support for ONOE.

But what exactly is the government proposing, and what are the arguments for and against ONOE? Here’s a brief guide to understanding the issue and the various opinions on the matter.

One nation, one election, or simultaneous elections, would mean that instead of having several elections happening across the country every year, elections will be held only once in five years – either in a single phase, or more practically, in multiple phases. For instance, if the government does choose to go the ONOE way, and all legal hurdles are cleared, voters in Tamil Nadu for instance will vote for the central government and the state government at the same time, perhaps in 2023.


  • Simultaneous elections were held till 1967 Lok Sabha polls
  • Debate revived in 1990s under Atal Bihari Vajpayee government
  • Narendra Modi has been pushing for one nation one election.

When one nation one election was the norm

Concurrent elections were the norm between 1951 and 1967. During this period elections to the Lok Sabha were held fully or partially with state polls.

While all states went to the polls for the Lok Sabha and local assemblies in 1951-52, the reorganisation of states and dismissal of governments saw percentage of states voting simultaneously for both came down to 76 per cent in 1957 and 67 per cent in 1962 and 1967. The link broke almost completely in 1970s.

The RSS-BJP combine revived the debate in the late 1990s, when the BJP was gaining prominence in elections and Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed three - including one of 13 days - governments. BJP veteran LK Advani was a vocal proponent of simultaneous elections.

How will it work?

There were two proposals to conduct simultaneous elections along with 17th Lok Sabha elections. However, both didn't materialise.

One proposal was to make the shift to simultaneous polls in a phased manner, where general elections, 12 State Assemblies (which by themselves face elections in late 2018 or 2019) and a Union Territory may be synchronised in 2019, as the rest of the states are in the middle of their five-year term.

These 12 states were Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan. NCT of Delhi (Union Territory with Legislature) also faces polls in 2019. For such a synchronisation to happen, besides political consensus and extension of term up to six months in some states, amendments to the Constitution have to be made. Elections to the remaining State Legislative Assemblies and Union Territory with Legislature (Puducherry) will be synchronised by the end of 2021. Thereafter, elections to the Lok Sabha, all the State Legislative Assemblies and Union Territories (with legislatures) will be held simultaneously from 2024.

The second option involved synchronisation in two batches. First, elections to the 12 State Legislative Assemblies and one Union Territory would be synchronised with elections to the Lok Sabha in 2019. Next, elections to the remaining State Legislative Assemblies will be synchronised with that of one Union Territory by the end of 2021. This makes elections across the country synchronised in such a manner that they will be held twice every five years

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