One Nation One Election (ONOE) is also known as a simultaneous election in which two or more elections are held at the same time. In the context of India, ONOE refers to holding an election to the Lok Sabha and all the state assemblies in India at the same time.
Historically simultaneous elections in India were held dates back to the early years of independence. The first simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and all State assemblies were held in 1951-52. This practice was continued up to three general elections, held in 1957, 1962, and 1967. The cycle of the simultaneous election was, however, interrupted in 1968 and 1969, due to the dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies. In 1970, the Lok Sabha itself was dissolved, and new elections were conducted in 1971. Since then elections of Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies have been held at different times. However, there are only four States that hold simultaneous elections with the Lok Sabha- Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Odisha.
Few countries in the world hold simultaneous elections.
- South Africa: It holds simultaneous elections for the National and Provincial legislatures every five years.
- Sweden: It holds simultaneous elections for the National Legislature, Provincial Legislatures and local government every four years.
- Belgium: It holds simultaneous elections for the federal Parliament and regional Parliaments every five years.
India is the world’s largest democracy and conducts several elections at the national, state, and local levels, often leading to election fatigue and resource strain. The ‘One Nation, One Election’ (ONOE) reform, which advocates synchronizing these elections, has drawn a lot of attention.
It has emerged as a subject of intense debate and discussion in recent years. The concept of synchronizing National, State, and Local elections to reduce electoral costs, improve governance, and promote national stability.
There have been significant developments and discussions related to this reform in recent years:
- Election Commission’s Report (2019): In 2019, the Election Commission of India submitted a detailed report to the Law Ministry, arguing in favour of the adoption of ONOE. The report highlighted the benefits of simultaneous elections. Such as a reduction of election-related expenditure and more emphasis on governance.
- PM’s Support: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been outspoken for ONOE. He has argued that frequent elections hinder development and governance.
- NITI Aayog’s White Paper (2020): In June 2020, NITI Aayog, the government’s policy think tank, published a white paper titled “Towards One Nation, One Election.” This document addressed several issues associated with the reform.
- All-Party Meeting (2021): The Modi government called an all-party meeting in June 2021, to try to build consensus on ONOE but many parties did not support the idea.
- In September 2023, the Central Government established an eight-member high-level committee under former President Ram Nath Kovind to examine and make recommendations on holding simultaneous elections in the country. This committee will examine the possibilities of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, Municipalities and Panchayats. Will also recommend the Constitutional Amendments and other laws.
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS.
- Article 83(2) The Constitution talks about the tenure for the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and the tenure is five years.
- Article 172 (1) provides five years of tenure for the State Legislative Assemblies and tenure cannot be extended beyond five years except in emergency.
- Implementation of simultaneous elections will require multiple Constitutional Amendments. Amendment to the Representation of People’s Act and other provisions. It will also require support from the opposition and states as well.
Recommendation of Law Commission (1999): The Law Commission was presided over by Justice BP Jeevan Reddy, in its 170th report7 stated that the cycle of elections every year should be put to an end. We must go back to the time when the Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies held their elections simultaneously. For the Lok Sabha and all Legislative Assemblies, the norm should be one election every five years.
Law Commission Draft Report (2018): The Law Commission headed by Justice B.S Chauhan, published its report that simultaneous elections are not possible without amending the constitution8.
- The simultaneous elections can be conducted through appropriate amendments to “The Representation of People Act, 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies.
- Additionally, the Commission had recommended that the constitutional amendment be ratified by at least 50% of the states which may not be easy.
BENEFITS OF THE ONE NATION ELECTION REFORM.
- Cost efficiency: Conducting multiple elections at different times is an expensive one for the government. Simultaneous elections would significantly reduce the financial burden on the government and reduce the burden on security forces.
- Reduced disruption: Continuous elections disturb the governance and developmental activities. With simultaneous elections, politicians and administrators could concentrate on implementing the policies and governance, since they wouldn’t constantly be in campaign mode.
- Stability and Continuity: Simultaneous elections may result in more stable governments as frequent changes would be reduced. This would help the government to make long-term planning and policies.
- Enhanced Voter Engagement: One Nation, One Election will encourage higher voter participation. It may be easier for people to cast a vote in both National and State elections simultaneously.
- Reduction in Polarization: Frequent elections have increased political polarization. Simultaneous elections can reduce polarization. With longer election cycles, parties might have more time to focus on governance rather than being in campaign mode.
- Better Allocation of Resources: Simultaneous election helps parties and politicians to spend resources more effectively and eliminates the need to prioritize one election over another.
CHALLENGES OF THE ONE NATION ONE ELECTION REFORM.
- Constitutional and Legal Challenges: Article 83(2) and 172 of the Constitution about the tenure of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies respectively will last for five years and cannot be extended beyond except in emergencies. What would happen if parliament itself dissolved earlier? Simultaneous elections cannot be held without amendment to the Constitution.
- Logistical Challenges: India is a vast country having a population of over a billion people. The Election Commission of India will have to require huge logistical support to conduct simultaneous elections and currently, it is not possible with the existing infrastructure.
- Impact on Regional Parties: Simultaneous elections might dilute the significance of regional parties and give an advantage to national parties, as voters might prioritize national issues over regional ones.
- Public Awareness and Education: Voters have to be well-informed about the candidates and issues at both the national and state levels. Educating voters is a challenging task about the complexities of simultaneous elections.
- Federalism and Autonomy: India is a federal country, where each State has its rights and obligations. Simultaneous elections might impact the federal structure of India, transforming it into a fully unitary state.
The ‘One Nation, One Election’ reform continues to be a subject of intense debate and discussion in India. Simultaneous elections have both aspects. While ONOE holds the promise of cost efficiency, reduction in polarization, and political stability, it faces challenges related to logistics, regional identity, one-party dominance and constitutional amendments. Implementing such a reform in a diverse and complex democracy like India requires careful consideration. Consensus among political parties is necessary to determine the feasibility and desirability of this significant reform.
Ultimately, the success of ONOE will rely on how it is implemented and the need to balance national and regional interests. Public opinion, opposition concern, transparency, and a commitment to the principles of democracy will be essential in shaping the future of electoral reform in India.
Author(s) Name: Prakash Kumar Patel (Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi)
 Constitution of India 1950, art 79
 Constitution of India 1950, art 168
 Anubhuti Vishnoi, “One nation, One election” through the decades (The Economics Times, 02 September 2023) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/one-nation-one-election-through-the-decades/articleshow/103294184.cms?from=mdr >accessed on 12 September 2023
Sravasti Dasgupta, One Nation, One Election’, Fourth Committee, (The Wire, 02 September 2023) <https://thewire.in/government/one-nation-one-election-fourth-committee> accessed on 12 September 2023
 Constitution of India 1950, art 82(2)
 Constitution of India 1950, art 172(1)
 Trupti Paikaray, As India preps for ‘One Nation, One Election Bill’ what are the potential benefits and drawbacks? (The Times of India, 02 September 2023) < https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/tea-with-life/as-india-preps-for-one-nation-one-election-bill-what-are-the-potential-benefits-and-drawbacks/ > accessed on 13 September 2023
 KC Tyagi, One Nation, One Election: A blow to federalism, a challenge to implement, (The Indian EXPRESS, 05 September 2023), <https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/one-nation-one-election-blow-to-federalism-8924227/ > accessed on 14 September 2023