Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the pitch for ‘One Election’ and a single voter list for all elections as frequent spread-out polls are a drain on resources and detrimental to development
-Dr. Cyriac Thomas
If America could resort to the principle of
‘One nation, One election’ 200 years before, India can easily make a trial of it
The repeated suggestion of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for a ‘One nation , One election’ theory, this time while addressing the conference of the presiding officers of the Parliament and State Legislatures recently appears rational and logical, given our experience of the elections we have had in the country during the last 70 years of our democratic experiments. India's first national electoral process in 1951-52 since our Constitution came into effect in 1950, which witnessed simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and to the State Legislative Assemblies proved a very master performance. It not only proved a calm and peaceful affair but equally effective and impartial too, conducted almost next to perfection, thanks to India's first Chief Election Commissioner, Sukumar Sen. No confusion, no complaints. People had a faith in the integrity and impartiality of the entire election authority, its very machinery, process and procedure and the electoral mechanism it followed uniformly all over the country. India proved to the world that she has emerged the largest democracy in the world despite a sizeable section of her voters were allegedly remaining still in the so called illiterate range. It was certainly India's first electoral miracle. Even in Allahabad, Nehru's home constituency and then a Congress citadel, Nehru's margin over his rival Dr Lohia was only a few thousands, and not lakhs as we find now a days in many a VIP constituencies, adding a further cap of credibility to the transparency of the whole electoral process then. No bogus votes, nor any allegations of electoral manipulations.
However, since the first election, the situation started eventually changing with the fall of state governments in many a states owing to political dissensions within the ruling parties and consequent instabilities leading to dissolutions of assemblies and interim elections, one after the other, causing heavy drain on the state exchequers. Bye-elections to the Lok Sabha due to the demise or resignations of members are also taking a toll on the treasury.
Then came elections to the local governments--City Corporations, Municipalities and Panchayats, besides the Zilla Parishads after the Panchayat Raj adventure, again doubling the expense of our democracy. Once the specific election rules were framed and implemented, the stipulated "code of conduct" practically froze all developmental activities of the administration at all levels, leading the very government machinery to a standstill till the polling is over. This norms continues still. And again the bye-elections at the local and regional levels made the situation further worse. Now the people themselves have started feeling rather bored and burdened by the current system of spread out polls at frequent intervals in different parts of the country involving heavy drain of money not only for the governments concerned, but also for the political parties, the candidates and also for the people at large as they too are pressured every time to contribute to the election funds through receipts (or no receipts) coupons or buckets. This, on the other hand, to a considerable level, perpetuates blatant corruption in elections and politics, and sometimes in the administration too.
The rise and hike in the unaccounted income of powers that be from the grassroot levels to the top brass is, in fact, frighteningly amazing and shocking. We even hear stories of many a scandal involving political leaders of standing erecting calculating machines in their homes to measure precisely the quantum of currency they receive as bucks, be it be named service charge,commission, share or bribe. Everybody concedes that corruption has come to stay in our current system of election, politics andadministration at all levels, perhaps doubling the range of it once in every five years.
Thank God, in spite of all these backdrop no one has so far raised any allegation of a personal corruption against the PM till date, perhaps may be because he is a known detached person, even devoid of a family, except his adoration and attachment for his aged mother. Prime Minister Modi certainly stands tall on that count almost on a par with Kamaraj who too was above board except his known devotion for his mother. Twice Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and then the Congress President, Kamaraj was a chronic bachelor all his life. A few of our earlier prime ministers too we consider belonging to the "clean club or that sort of a political school of the uncorruptible, making nothing for their families out of the way while in power -- Panditji, Shastriji, Morarjibhai, Nandaji, Vajpayeeji and of late the Sardarji. It is no small matter that even the words and language used by those who were severely critical of some of the policies some of them crafted or followed while in power were rather gentle, generous and courteous and never they raised any charge of personal lapses against any one of them despite their political dissent they retained with them. That was the range and level of our culture of politics in yesteryears.
Once the specific election rules were framed and implemented, the stipulated "code of conduct" practically froze all developmental activities of the administration at all levels, leading the very government machinery to a standstill till the polling is over. This norms continues still
It is in this background the suggestion ‘One nation, One election’ made by the Prime Minister the other day has to be viewed and subjected to a national debate. Not that a "system change" is that easy or effortless overnight. But it is high time that at some point we have to set the ball in motion for a possible reform in our Electoral Statutes. Currently, the very suggestion for a system change has come from the political top of the nation. Let us have a wide range of national debate at all levels on the issue. And no doubt, earlier the better to have a serious dialogue on its pros and cons and a serious attempt made to arrive at a national consensus on the question of a probable change of law on the electoral reforms as such since otherwise the situation will only turn from bad to worse, shaking even the very faith of the people in our democracy, shaking it to itsvery foundations. If America could resort to the principle and practice of ‘One nation, One election’ option two hundred years before, despite having a Federal System, why not we too make a trial of it within the Federal norms and structure of our Constitution.
(The author is former Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University)