Prime Minister NarendraModi has called a meeting of presidents of all parties represented in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha on June 19 to discuss the issue of one nation, one election. The party wants elections to the parliament, state assemblies and panchayats to be conducted simultaneously to prevent the disruptions to the governance that intermittent elections cause. On its face value, the rationale for the exercise looks irresistible but it makes little democratic sense. For, it frees the government at the centre of the electoral checks and balances during its term. Intermittent state elections indirectly work as an important gauge of the public confidence in the central government. The adverse outcome in a state election forces the ruling party in New Delhi to course correct and do more to retain its faith among the people.
But the BJP has been determined to implement “one nation, one election” policy in the country. This is of a piece with its long-standing agenda of “one flag, one constitution, one leader” which seeks a uniformity in the way the country is run. This agenda looks to overlook the differences and homogenize an otherwise bewilderingly heterogeneous country. The BJP’s bid to scrap the Articles 370 and 35A in J&K is part of this ideological project. Over the past five years that it has been in power the party has effectively shifted the debate away from resolution to assimilation of Kashmir into India. However, it has stopped short of holding simultaneous Assembly and parliament election in the state despite the situation being very conducive for it.
‘One nation, one election’ policy is bound to face a stiff opposition from the Congress and the other political parties.True, there are precedents in the history when the country has held concomitant parliament and Assembly polls. The first election after implementation of constitution in 1952 was conducted simultaneously. Later the elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962 were also the same. However the fourth Lok Sabha brought an end to the process. Ever since, the elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies have drifted apart. And rightly so. This ‘drift’ has been a part of India’s deepening democracy. Different states have evolved as democratic units with their own electoral cultures which operate by and large autonomously of the national politics. The existing democratic system has organically evolved over the years and it should not disturbed. Any attempt to interfere with it or seek to forcibly manipulate it will stop its natural evolution and inflict a grievous damage on the democracy in the country.