ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Simultaneous Elections in Plural Societies

Overlapping Social Cleavages and Democratic Stability in India

The contentious proposal of “one nation, one election” is critically examined. The interwoven relationship between elections, social cleavages, federal balance, and the potential implications of simultaneous elections for democratic (in)stability in India is explored. In doing so, comparative literature on concurrent elections is studied to assuage its merits and demerits, and better understand the implications for a country like India.

The authors would like to acknowledge the anonymous referee for providing invaluable insights, which helped enrich and extend the analysis of some key points in this article. Javid Ahangar, Bushra Zahoor, Saalim Bhat, and Muhtashim Issaq reviewed multiple versions of this article and contributed in enhancing its quality.

The catchphrase of “one nation, one election” has lately entered India’s political lexicon. It represents an ambitious proposal envisioned by the current union government aiming to “harmonise polls” by holding simultaneous elections in Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies. The Prime Minister proposed this idea with great vigour during the 2014 general elections. The fundamental idea or its practice is, however, not entirely outlandish in India, as simultaneous elections were held in the country during the first four general elections, namely 1951–52, 1957, 1962, and 1967. Its discontinuation coincided with the collapse of one-party dominance in the late 1960s, which would preclude the entry of new parties in electoral competition (Palshikar 2016; Kumar 2021).

The 1999 Law Commission Report on the reform of electoral laws enunciated, perhaps for the first time, the desirability of simultaneous elections in India. Addressing the need to harmonise the electoral process in the country, the report emphasised that “the holding of separate election to legislative assembly should be an exception and not the rule” (Law Commission of India 1999). Following this, the 79th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2015) made a “compelling case” for the feasibility of this idea. In 2016, the then minister of state for finance and corporate affairs tabled a statement in Lok Sabha on holding simultaneous elections, including those in the local units of government). Two years later, the NITI Aayog recommended a coordinated two-stage schedule for Lok Sabha and legislative assembly elections from 2024, seeking to minimise disruptions to governance stemming from constant campaigning (Sundarajan 2018). Finally, in early September 2023, the government constituted an eight-member high-level committee led by former President Ram Nath Kovind, which was tasked with assessing the proposal of simultaneous elections and submitting a report on its feasibility in the country (Hindu Business Line 2023).

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Updated On : 9th Jan, 2024
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