Findings of this paper are being used as a basis for pro-One India, One Election idea. It will be good to call One Nation, One Election OR One India, One Election just an idea!
One must be weary of those persons who read the summary of a serious academic research today and become its expert the very next day. This exactly happened with a research paper studying Indian elections(published in 2010) by Csaba Nikolenyi, a Canadian professor. In recent months, the findings of this paper are being used as a basis for pro-One Nation, One Election idea. It will be good to call it just an idea because selective findings from this paper are being used to create a Nation wide wave in favor of all elections (various State assembly elections and the Parliamentary elections) taking place at the same time.
The reason to get uneasy with such ideas and whosoever floats them is rather simple — To take an informed decision people must know both the positives and negatives of the hypothesis (unproved or you can call an idea).
Why support One Nation One Election
Those who want this model, which very publicly is BJP, base their argument on two reasons: One, it will allow Governments to implement new policies and two; One Nation One election will save the country a lot of money.
Interestingly, even the concise summary of the research paper doesn’t attribute any of the above two reasons.
According to the research paper, the real advantage of conducting simultaneous elections is the increase in voter turnout.
Interestingly though, none of the proponents (those who spreading the idea) of One Nation One Election is saying that it will result in increased voter turnout (Remember Compulsory voting in India idea?). Although they know that it will result in relatively higher voter turnout, but for some reason they are not mentioning it.
Arguments against One India, One Election
Bigger or Pan India political parties (who have presence all over India) seem to be in favor of One India, One Election. The primary reason for them favoring it is that if elections are held simultaneously, then their likelihood of winning a state increases, if there is a national wave in their favor.
The visible disadvantage of this scenario is the sidelining of Regional political parties in many states. We must remember that a major Regional party such as Trinamool Congress or a TDP or a AIDMK or a DMK or an AAP is equally if not more capable at doing good work in an Indian state, than say BJP or Congress. In past years, it has been observed that these regional parties have done better work in their state compared to a National Party. In simple, if one India, one election weakens regional parties then it will not be good either (I will not talk about Federal argument because many will see it just another bookish wisdom). Understand it this way: If more companies in retail business is good for the consumer, then more political parties in any election is equally good.
Simultaneous elections in India took place was in 1967 and then in 1977
The last time simultaneous Elections on One Nation, One Election model took place was in 1967 and then in 1977. They do resulted in higher voter turnout. If for a moment we assume that the model is indeed good and results in better Governance and removes policy paralysis then the question is: Did the model attained those objectives? Because during these years and afterwards up to 1977, INC was in power in most of India. If that model failed then, then how will the same One India, One Election model help choose better Governments now?
Will One India One Election model save money?
Although the research paper doesn’t say anything in its favor, it seems that the “money saving” reasoning doesn’t stand on its feet. The last Lok Sabha Elections in 2014 costed the Nation about Rs. 4500-5000 crores. The recent Gujarat elections costed Rs. 300 crores. So even if all the elections are conducted simultaneously, the country will spend Rs. Rs. 12000 or 14000 crore (approx.). Now consider this scenario, if there is no money scarcity with the Governments(as Government claims), and if it is indeed saving huge money by way of cash subsidy, increasing tax compliance and digitizing India then the money saved by One India One election will be insignificant.
And finally, the issue of inability to implement policy and launch new schemes due to Elections in some states. Is One India, One Election medicine for its cure? It seems that it’s not. Any Government, whether it’s at Centre or State is tied down by Election Code of conduct for no more than 2 months in 5 years. If a Government has to wait for the last two months to launch, budget and implement people friendly polices; then what was it doing for 58 months?
To conclude, the mere act of picking some pieces of academic hypothesis (sometimes theory as well) and boasting about it, will not serve us any good. We need to look into it.
Does One India, One Election increase voter turnout? … Will write about it in Observations some other day, as it is also not conclusively proved by One Nation, One Election Study of India.