A major election reform is in the offing was the buzz yesterday (August 31) after the government announced a special five-day parliament session, however, sans any details about the agenda for the proceedings. There is speculation that the session has been called to discuss ‘One Nation One Election’ i.e holding simultaneous elections in the country. The Centre today also announced a committee headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind to explore the possibility of ‘One Nation One Election’.
However, the government and the associated agencies in the past had formed panels and mooted the idea of simultaneous polls in the country. The election commission suggested the idea to conduct the Lok Sabha and the elections to the state assemblies together in its 1983 report. In 1999, the Law Commission headed by Justice BP Jeevan Reddy said: "We must go back to the situation where the elections to Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies are held at once."
In 2003 Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee deliberated on the issue with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, but it failed to progress. Subsequently in 2015 the idea was backed in a Parliamentary Standing Committee report. It was further supported by a NITI Aayog paper in 2017. It said periodic elections lead to "policy paralysis" due to imposition of the Model Code of Conduct and huge expenditures.
It was in 2018 that the Law Commission of India under Justice BS Chauhan said simultaneous elections cannot be held within the existing framework of the Constitution and recommended over ‘five Constitutional recommendations’ for holding simultaneous polls. The commission suggested that at least 50 per cent of the states should ratify the amendments. No-confidence motion and premature dissolution of the state assembly were cited by the draft report as major hurdles to the idea of One Nation One Poll.
As a resolution to such a situation, the commission suggested ‘no-confidence motion’ should be replaced with a ‘constructive vote of no-confidence’. Accordingly, the government may only be removed from office if there is confidence in an ‘alternate government’, the panel said.
In case of mid-term elections, the commission suggested that the new Lok Sabha or state Assembly should not be allowed for the entire term of five years but only for the "remainder of the previous term’.
In terms of synchonisation of dates of elections, it was recommended by the commission that if simultaneous elections cannot be conducted, then all elections falling due in a calendar year should be conducted together. The timing of such an election should be conducive to all state legislatures involved and the Lok Sabha (if dissolved earlier). This option will also require amendments to the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.