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Indian Express

23- January-2024

1. FIRST, LISTEN

Topic: GS2 – Governance 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of ongoing debate on simultaneous elections, covering the approach of the High-Level Committee and the role of the Opposition.
Context:
  • The official consultation process initiated to assess the feasibility of simultaneous elections has revealed an overwhelming 81% support among the 20,000-plus responses received by the High-Level Committee on One Nation, One Election.
  • Headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind, the committee issued a public notice for suggestions between January 5-15.
  • However, the process has faced criticism for its perceived lack of balance and transparency.
Partisan Impression of the Kovind Committee:
  • The Kovind Committee, with its constitution, functioning manner, and the larger context of one-party dominance, has raised concerns about partisanship.
  • The committee, led by individuals who have openly expressed support for simultaneous polls or are closely aligned with the government, is seen by some as lacking impartiality.
  • The blame for the absence of robust debate on this proposal is also placed on the Opposition, particularly the Congress, for refusing to engage on an issue with significant consequences.
Opposition’s Fragmented Response and Concerns:
  • While the Opposition and various states have voiced concerns, the responses appear scattered and piecemeal.
  • Congress has labeled the proposal “undemocratic,” AAP sees it as providing an “unfair advantage” to the ruling party, the DMK deems it “dangerous,” and the TMC describes it as “against the federal structure.”
  • Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress Leader in the Lok Sabha, refused to be part of the committee, citing its imbalance.
Critical Role of Opposition in Democratic Process:
  • The article emphasizes the importance of the Opposition playing a crucial role in shaping such fundamental changes in the democratic structure.
  • It argues that the concerns of the Opposition, silenced in the last parliamentary session with the expulsion of 146 MPs, must be considered, and their voice in the consequential matter of designing elections should not be merely token.
  • The legitimacy of the electoral system is perceived as deriving not solely from the ruling party but also from those without executive office, ensuring a balanced democratic process.
What is the Central Idea behind One Nation, One Election?
  • The central idea behind One nation, One election is to synchronize the timing of Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections across all States to reduce the frequency of polls throughout the country.
  •  This concept was the practice till 1967, but it was disrupted due to various reasons such as defections, dismissals, and dissolutions of government.
  • The cycle was first broken in 1959 after the Centre invoked Article 356 to dismiss the then-Kerala government.
  • Subsequently, due to defections and counter-defections between parties, several Legislative Assemblies dissolved post-1960, which eventually led to separate polls for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
  • Currently, the assembly polls in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha are held together with the Lok Sabha elections.
  • The idea of conducting simultaneous elections was advocated in 1999 by the Law Commission headed by BP Jeevan Reddy.
PYQ: ‘Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2017)
Practice Question: Evaluate the implications of the High-Level Committee’s findings on simultaneous elections in India. Discuss the concerns raised by the Opposition and various states, and analyze the potential impact of simultaneous elections on the democratic structure. (250 words/15 m)

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