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The Idea of One Nation One Election is Against Federalism

The Idea of One Nation One Election is Against Federalism

  • April 30, 2024
  • Posted By : Oswaal Books

Table of Contents

1.   Context

2.   About One Nation One Election

3.   Background

4.   Need for One Nation One Election (ONOE)

5.   Challenges Associated With One Nation One Election (ONOE)

6.   Way Forward

7.   Conclusion

Context: This editorial discusses The Hindu’s news on the notion that one nation, one election is opposed to federalism. It explores the potential consequences of the “High-Level Committee on One Nation One Election,” initiated by the Union Government in September 2023 and headed by former President of India, Ramnath Kovind.

For Mains: One Nation, One Election: Benefits, Challenges and Way Forward.

About One Nation One Election

“One Nation One Election” refers to the proposal for synchronizing the electoral cycles of the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies to hold elections simultaneously across the country. This idea aims to streamline the electoral process, reduce campaign expenditures, minimize disruptions to governance, and promote political stability. However, it has sparked debates regarding its feasibility, constitutional implications, impact on federalism, and logistical challenges.


  • The concept of “One Nation One Election” has its roots dating back to 1983 when it was first proposed by the Election Commission of India. However, prior to 1967, India regularly conducted simultaneous elections.
  • The initial synchronized elections for the Lok Sabha and all State Legislative Assemblies occurred in 1951-52 and continued through the subsequent general elections in 1957, 1962, and 1967.
  • This pattern was disrupted in 1968 and 1969 due to the premature dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies.
  • Furthermore, in 1970, the Lok Sabha itself was dissolved prematurely, leading to fresh elections in 1971. Consequently, until 1970, only the First, Second, and Third Lok Sabha completed full five-year terms.

Need for One Nation One Election (ONOE)

  • To Address High Expenditure: The 2014 general elections reportedly incurred an estimated ₹3,870 crore in expenses from the public exchequer. Advocates argued that holding simultaneous elections for both the Union Parliament and State Assemblies would substantially reduce expenditure.
  • Governance Efficiency: Synchronizing elections at the national and state levels would reduce the frequency of organising elections, allowing elected representatives and governments to focus on governance rather than campaigning. This could eventually lead to more stable and efficient governance.
  • Addressing Political Corruption: Political corruption is fueled by frequent elections, which require raising significant funds each time. Holding simultaneous elections can greatly cut down on election expenses for political parties, removing the need for repetitive fundraising. This also reduces the burden on the public and business community to donate multiple times for various elections.
  • Voter Convenience: Simultaneous elections would reduce the frequency of voting for citizens, making it more convenient for voters to enthusiastically participate in the democratic process.
  • Uninterrupted Governance: The Model Code of Conduct is enforced twice within a five-year cycle, disrupting the smooth functioning of government affairs and causing periods of “governance downtime.”

Challenges Associated with One Nation One Election (ONOE)

  • Constitutional Concerns: Article 83(2) and 172 of the Constitution stipulate a five-year tenure for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies respectively, unless dissolved earlier. Implementing ONOE raises concerns about the consequences if the Central or State government collapse midway through its tenure.
  • Logistical Challenges in Implementing ONOE: The execution of ONOE presents substantial logistical hurdles, including ensuring the availability and security of electronic voting machines, personnel, and other necessary resources simultaneously at all voting centres. The Election Commission (EC) may face difficulties in managing such a massive electoral undertaking, thereby complicating the implementation of ONOE.
  • Federalism Concerns: ONOE contradicts the principle of federalism, which defines India as a “Union of States” according to Article 1 of the Constitution. Simultaneous elections pose a threat to the autonomy and sovereignty of state governments, potentially undermining the federal structure and exacerbating conflicts of interest between the Centre and states. Additionally, the terms of state governments vary, and certain states are granted special provisions under Article 371 of the Constitution, further complicating the implementation of ONOE.
  • Against the Judgment of the Supreme Court: In S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994), the Supreme Court emphasized on the independent constitutional existence of states, asserting their significance in various aspects of societal life, equal to that of the Union. Therefore, ONOE could potentially contravene this perspective upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • On the Independence of the Election Commission: The Election Commission, a constitutional body entrusted with autonomy in electoral matters, appears to be passive in its response to the actions of the High Level Committee.
  • Against Democratic Values: The concept of One Nation One Election (ONOE) has been criticized as being against democratic values. Some argue that it undermines the essence of democracy by centralizing power and reducing the frequency of electoral accountability.
  • Language Bias in Consultation Process: The consultation process conducted by the High-Level Committee, as reflected on its website, has raised concerns regarding bias, exclusion, and inequality. The website, designed to serve as an information hub and platform for interaction, is accessible solely in English and Hindi, disregarding the linguistic diversity represented by India’s 22 official languages.

Way Forward

  • Building Consensus: Foster open dialogues, consultations, and deliberations among political parties and states to build consensus on the feasibility and implementation of simultaneous elections, addressing concerns and garnering support from diverse stakeholders.
  • Constitutional Amendments: Initiate amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies to accommodate the unique requirements of synchronized polls, ensuring legal framework alignment with simultaneous elections.
  • Investment in Infrastructure: Allocate substantial resources for electoral infrastructure and technology, ensuring an adequate supply of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines, polling booths, and trained security personnel for successful simultaneous elections.
  • Awareness and Voter Education: Conduct extensive voter education programs to create awareness among citizens about the advantages and challenges of simultaneous elections, ensuring that voters understand the process and can exercise their franchise confidently and conveniently.

In conclusion, the proposal for One Nation One Election (ONOE) presents both opportunities and challenges for India’s democratic framework. While ONOE aims to streamline the electoral process, enhance governance efficiency, and reduce electoral expenses, its implementation requires careful consideration of various factors. A balanced approach that addresses concerns, safeguards democratic principles, and fosters inclusive decision-making is essential for the successful implementation of ONOE in India.

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