What Happened to One Nation-One Election? - April 03, 2019

India has already entered a race to elect its representatives for 17th Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, who will elect the Prime Minister and her/his ministry to govern the vast country. Nobody, however, is talking about the concept of One Nation-One Election, which was a hotly debated topic just a year and half ago. In 2017-18, the ruling party, i.e. Bharatiya Janata Party, appeared to have cornered the opposition by pitching for holding simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and all state assemblies. On the surface, the argument was economics in conducting simultaneous elections. Beneath the surface, the politics was to en-cash popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win majority in Lok Sabha as well as in most of the state assemblies. In fact, in 2017-18, BJP was in power in most of the states either on its own or in alliance with regional parties. It was much into the hands of BJP to dissolve the state assemblies where it was ruling along with dissolution of Lok Sabha and conduct elections for all of them together. This could have built immense pressure on Congress which was ruling in only 2 significant states by the end of 2017 – Punjab in the north and Karnataka in the south. However, BJP did not play the gamble. After steering the pot by declaring its intent to conduct simultaneous election, Prime Minister has silently buried the issue. The silent change in posturing on One Nation – One Election was not due to any change in the economics related to it, but because of change in the political assessment of the ruling party. Its brand was no longer as salable as it was before the assembly election of Gujarat. In the home state of the Prime Minister, BJP had to toil hard to resurrect another victory in December 2017. It was the state that ensured Mr Modi’s climb in national politics on the pretext of Gujarat Model of Development. The Gujarat experience of 2017 was an alarm bell for BJP and Prime Minister himself. If simultaneous elections would be held in 2018 for most of the state assemblies and Lok Sabha, perhaps BJP would have been at the receiving end of the ire of farmers, small traders and businesses as all of them were ruing the fall in income generation. From the political point of view, Prime Minister’s decision not to press for simultaneous elections proved to be correct. In the subsequent state elections, BJP failed to win majority and form the government in 4 major states – Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The point here is how ethical it was on the part of the ruling party and the Prime Minister to initiate a discussion on very important issue, to take it to the zenith by mobilizing people’s support for it and then suddenly dumping it in the Arabian sea? Or the entire exercise was just an eye wash to divert people’s attention from the simmering economic crisis? The nation certainly needs to know, Mr Prime Minister, what happened to the promise of One Nation – One Election!

- Prof. Parimal Maya Sudhakar