PM Modi’s ‘one nation, one election’ proposal is being viewed with scepticism by most opposition parties, even as President Ram Nath Kovind endorsed it during his address to both Houses of Parliament on Thursday. The CPM has dubbed the plan ‘anti-democratic and anti-federal’ and ‘an attempt to replace the parliamentary system with the presidential one’, while the Congress has termed it a ploy to divert people’s attention from key issues such as unemployment and farmer suicides. The idea, which does make sense if implemented in national interest, has unfortunately acquired a partisan hue.
Elections are a humongous exercise — costly as well as time-consuming — in the world’s largest democracy. A country/state that remains in the poll mode more often than not suffers on the development front due to the repeated imposition of the model code of conduct. Considerable savings in terms of money and manpower are likely if the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are held together. Such was the practice in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Congress ruled the roost. However, the dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968-69 and the Lok Sabha in late 1970 led to separate elections to Assemblies and Parliament.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has claimed that ‘one nation, one election’ is the country’s agenda, not the government’s, but there are few takers for his argument. The onus is on the NDA government to allay fears that the BJP is making a pitch for simultaneous polls with an ulterior motive. There is a perception that the saffron party wants to cash in on its stupendous victory in the 2019 General Election to wrest control of a majority of the states and union territories. For the record, regional parties upstaged the BJP in Odisha as well as Andhra Pradesh, where parallel Lok Sabha and Assembly polls were conducted this year. Routed in the parliamentary poll battle, opposition parties presume that all is not lost as long as they can slug it out in the Assembly electoral arena. Amid the trust deficit, there is a dire need to build political consensus on the contentious issue.