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Wrong, sometimes, seems to be okay till we have the right, making us realise that the former was ‘not right’. This is like Indians, feeling okay with ‘Indian roads’, suddenly realise the need for good roads after a visit to the US or Europe! Holding simultaneous elections in a country like India can be a gigantic challenge, but none can deny the phenomenal benefit of ‘one nation one election’. And, it’s not that India has proposed to do it for the first time! Simultaneous elections were successfully held for nearly two decades before the toppling of governments and the creation of new states disintegrated the whole process. The elections now happening almost throughout the year in some or other parts of the country have severely hampered the growth of the country. If simultaneous elections could be introduced, in whatever form, there could be a paradigm shift in the development narrative of India in the coming years.

Simultaneous elections will curtail the nation’s electoral expenses to a great extent. While electoral expenses stimulate the economy as well, it cannot be justified to have elections now and then. The saved taxpayers’ money can be used to create infrastructure for long-term economic gains, human resource development, and protection of the environment. Besides, hundreds of working hours of lakhs of teachers and government employees & officers can be saved for productive public service. It will also give ruling political dispensations enough room to conduct proper research, make experiments and take corrective measures before implementing any major public programme, and not resort to joining the freebie bandwagon to shine in public imagination before every election.

Political parties keep a lot of cards close to their chest and wait for the right opportunity to play them ahead of elections. Some of these ‘cards’ are for actual public benefit and delay in their ‘release’ is not in the latter’s interest. If there is one nation one election, parties may not be encouraged to hold such cards and open them as and when it is necessary and for the public good.

This may also give ample scope to our electorates as well as emerging politicians to attain maturity and help grow Indian politics to a global level. Currently, a lot to be desired from both sides, who seem to be fascinated by trivial issues all the time. With the mega electoral reform, a time may come when rather than public sentiment, public knowledge will drive the election agenda.

In the age of globalisation, simultaneous elections may essentially change core political issues before any election – from meagre short-term economic reliefs and so-called protection to one’s religion and culture to more realistic issues such as sustainable economic development, human integrity, understanding and protecting nature, etc.

A lot of crimes originate from electoral activities in many states. Simultaneous elections have the potential to change our nation’s crime scenario as politically motivated crimes will come down due to longer gaps between elections. Besides, security agencies – spared from frequent election duties – shall have more time to go after criminal elements including the virtual criminals.

From a security point of view, simultaneous polls will generate two-pronged benefits. Firstly, security forces and intelligence agencies shall have to spare their manpower for elections only once in five years. Rest of the period, they can concentrate on enhancing the security scenario – internal and external. Secondly, during peacetime, a major portion of our forces may be spared for engagement in other productive activities such as building roads and creating forests. Lack of mass electoral practices perhaps is one of the reasons for China‘s emergence from notorious Japanese occupation to a dominant global force on all fronts in a few decades.

The inconveniences/challenges while introducing this mega electoral reform are nothing comparable to the enormous benefits to awaiting the nation. While the advantages of simultaneous elections are not denied even by those sensible in the Opposition, they have pointed out the implementation challenges, some of which are tough to mitigate. However, if there is a will there is a way! All parties should first declare their support to the idea to help the current government overcome the challenges. Otherwise, the government, if hell-bent on the idea, will find means to implement it and take away the credit alone! At present, it looks like the Opposition is opposing ‘one nation one election’ only because, when implemented, it would be another landmark of the Modi government. The possibility of driving BJP out of power will be further remote! However, the Opposition doesn’t have many options left, but to pray for the failure of the much-talked-about electoral reform! They should support it and reap its benefits, which will be for all, in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the government shall make its intent clear – till now it is shy of disclosing any timeframe for the mega task – and create more avenues for public awareness on the matter. The government shall also propose alternatives in case of eventualities such as the fall of government requiring a mid-term election. Five-year election shall be the basic rule and provisions shall be kept for exceptions.

When to start simultaneous elections is a huge challenge as some ruling parties may have to sacrifice their terms for the greater cause. At least a two-year notice shall be given to all incumbent governments before introducing simultaneous elections. That cannot happen without a Constitutional amendment. Naysayers would then term it ‘murder of democracy’, which of late has become a cliché!

We should welcome the necessary amendments to plug all loopholes in holding simultaneous elections. The amendments should not be a big deal as Bharat survived for long before our Constitution arrived just seven decades ago! With a strong government at the Centre, this is India’s chance to carry out such major reform, which is not possible during fragmented mandates. All stakeholders should contribute in their capacity for the successful implementation of simultaneous elections.

Views expressed by the author are their own.

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About Ratul Baruah

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Ratul Baruah is a senior journalist, editor and communication specialist based in Guwahati