Does ‘One Nation One Election’ Benefit BJP?

The ruling party says with ‘One Nation One Election’, expenses will be curbed, corruption will be reduced and development works will be less obstructed. While opposition parties believe it is a well-thought-out strategy from the BJP to revolve elections around national issues by eliminating local issues. With the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha, the BJP can capitalise on the face of its star campaigner – PM Narendra Modi

By Geeta Singh
  • Soon after returning to power in 2019 with a thumping victory, the Modi govt had started its planning for the ‘One Nation One Election’
  • 1 lakh crore INR are projected to be spent in the 2024 general elections. This means more than the budget of MGNREGA & PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi combined
  • in 1999, for the first time, the Law Commission had said that Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections should be conducted simultaneously
  • The Lok Sabha elections were held for the first time in 1952, 10 crores and 52 lakh rupees were spent

On 15th August 2019, while addressing the nation from Red Fort on the occasion of 73rd Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his speech, “The mood of the people has changed. Disappointment turned into optimism, dreams became connected with desire and everyone was on the same page that this country can change.” “Arrangements have been made for One nation, One mobility card.” In his speech, he also mentioned, “Today, India is talking about one nation, one election.” Before that in June 2019 during NITI Aayog meeting Modi had called for widespread debate and consultations on simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. It suggests that soon after returning to power in 2019 with a thumping victory the Modi govt had started its planning for the ‘One Nation One Election’ thought. NITI Aayog has given its suggestions for two-phase Lok Sabha and assembly polls from 2024 to ensure minimum campaign-mode disruption to governance. Giving the reason for saving money, the Law Commission also suggested holding the Lok Sabha and state legislature elections simultaneously in August last year. However, the draft, submitted to the Law Ministry, also cautioned that “holding simultaneous elections is not possible within the existing framework of the Constitution”.

SIMULTANEOUS POLLS AHEAD?

Ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014, there has been a debate in political circles about the ‘One Nation One Election’. Now again the demand for it is being made by the ruling party. It is believed that by passing the ‘One Nation One Election’ proposal, the assembly elections of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Telangana, which are to be held between December 2023 and January 2024 can also be held along with the general elections next year. It is anticipated that after India’s G-20 Presidency in September, PM Modi’s popularity will skyrocket. This slogan has been a key agenda for the Modi govt. In this regard, Home Minister Amit Shah had written a letter to the Law Commission, in which he had given arguments in support of why there should be simultaneous polls. To conduct polls, changes will have to be made in the constitution, anti-defection law, people’s representative law and other laws related to parliamentary procedure. So, replying to Amit Shah’s letter the very next day, the then Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat came out with a statement that the Election Commission does not have enough VVPAT machines to hold elections in 11 States along with the Lok Sabha. The Election Commission can conduct elections in 8 states simultaneously. At present, one EVM is being used along with one VVPAT machine at each polling station to conduct voting. The requirement for these machines will double if Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are held simultaneously. Additional polling personnel will also be required for security arrangements. For this, the number of central police forces will also have to be increased.

It is believed that by passing the ‘One Nation One Election’ proposal, the assembly elections of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Telangana, which are to be held between December 2023 and January 2024 can also be held along with the general elections next year

Before the 2019 general elections when ‘One nation One election’ discussions were buzzing around, then former President Ramnath Kovind, while addressing the joint session of the Parliament, had called for the implementation of this plan. The President believed that with this, the country would move forward on the path of rapid development and the common people would get its benefit. No doubt holding simultaneous elections has its advantages as well as disadvantages. In December 2015, the Law Commission presented a report on ‘One Nation One Election’. In this report, it was pointed out that if Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are held simultaneously in the country, then crores of rupees can be saved. This would also prevent the repeated imposition of a code of conduct, which will not affect the development process.

WHOPPING EXPENDITURE

According to the Law Commission’s election expenditure guidelines, all the expenses of the Lok Sabha elections are the responsibility of the Central government. In contrast, the expenses of the assembly elections are the responsibility of the State governments. The candidate has to bear the expenses of his campaign. Hence, when the Lok Sabha elections were held for the first time in the country in 1952, 10 crores and 52 lakh rupees were spent. The expenditure of the government was reduced in the elections of 1957 and 1962, but after the 1967 elections, this expenditure increased constantly.

In the first Lok Sabha elections, there were 17 crore voters in the country and the cost per voter was 60 paise. According to the report of the Center for Media Studies, 60 thousand crores were spent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This election was held in 7 phases over 75 days. There were 90 crore voters and the cost per voter was Rs 72. Around 30 thousand crores were spent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and about Rs 47 were spent per voter. While the limit of expenditure recognized by the Election Commission is Rs 10 to 12 thousand crores. In the general elections of 2014 and 2019, 40 percent more money was spent, of which 20 to 25 thousand crores were spent on advertisements, 5 to 6 thousand crores on logistics and 12-15 thousand crores were spent on voters. It also includes expenditure on things like the purchase of election equipment, voting ink, and ammonia paper besides appointment of polling officials, setting up of polling booths and temporary phone facilities etc.

According to an estimate, 1 lakh crore rupees are projected to be spent in the 2024 general elections. This means more than the budget of MGNREGA and PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme. In the current year, 60 thousand crores for MNREGA and 35 thousand crores for the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme are earmarked.In the report of the Law Commission and NITI Aayog, it has been said that election expenses will be reduced if elections are conducted simultaneously. However, the amount of expenditure that will be saved by holding elections together is not available. According to the Law Commission report, elections can take place in two phases in the country under one nation and one poll. In the first phase, along with the Lok Sabha elections, elections to some states can also be conducted. In the second phase, elections for the remaining states should be held simultaneously.

KEY CHALLENGES

The tenure of some states will have to be extended if polls are to be held in sync, while others will have to be dissolved. Interestingly, when Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, the NDA had governments in 7 states, but today the BJP and its allies are in power in 15 states. In 2018, the BJP and its allies had governments in 21 states. And this was the time when it was easy to set up a ‘One Nation One Election’. Meanwhile, some Chief Ministers of the BJP are also not in favour of this concept. In July 2018, when the Law Commission called a meeting of political parties on this issue, only four political parties supported it, while 9 parties were against it. However, Congress did not give any opinion on this.  

According to the report of the Center for Media Studies, 60 thousand crores were spent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This election was held in 7 phases over 75 days. There were 90 crore voters and the cost per voter was Rs 72. Around 30 thousand crores were spent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and about 47 rupees were spent per voter

On 18 June 2019, in a bid to build a consensus on holding simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, PM Modi convened the meeting of presidents of all political parties for which 40 were invited. 21 parties attended the meeting while three shared their views on the subject in writing. 

The Opposition argued that due to simultaneous elections to the general elections and assembly elections, voters would vote on national issues instead of local issues. Second, if the assembly is dissolved prematurely and the ruling party is defeated in the elections, it will be a big blow to the ruling party. BJD leader Naveen Patnaik is in favour of the concept of One Nation, One Election. Congress, however, argues that it was first a slogan of One Nation, One Tax, and then One Nation, One Election. Eventually, the ruling party’s ambition will reach every religion, food, and dress. TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee says that the government should first bring a white paper on this, and talk to legal experts. According to the Left parties, this is an impractical idea that will undermine democracy and the mandate. In the South, A key National Democratic Alliance ally, AIADMK, also opposed Modi’s formula of  One Nation, One Election.

By the way, the concept of  One Nation, One Election is not novel. After independence, in 1951-1952, 1962, and 1967, Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections were held simultaneously. But several assemblies were prematurely dissolved in 1968 and 1969, and the Lok Sabha was also dissolved in 1970, breaking the tradition of  One Nation, One Election. Earlier in 1999, for the first time, the Law Commission had said in its report that Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections should be conducted simultaneously. In 2015, the Parliamentary Committee on Law and Justice recommended holding simultaneous elections. 

Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi wrote in The Hindu: “Till the idea achieves political consensus, there are two alternative suggestions to deal with the problems that arise due to frequent elections. First, the problem of uncontrolled campaign expenditure can be remedied by introducing a cap on expenditure by political parties. State funding of political parties based on their poll performance also is a suggestion worth considering. Private and corporate fund collection may be banned. He said, “Second, as I have suggested elsewhere, the poll duration can be reduced from two-three months to about 33 to 35 days if more Central armed police forces can be provided. The problems associated with a multi-phased election have been getting compounded, with more issues being added to the list with every election. Violence, social media-related transgressions and issues related to the enforcement of the MCC which are unavoidable in a staggered election will vanish if the election is conducted in a single day. All that needs to be done is to raise more battalions. This will also help in job creation.”

IS THIS BOON?

Anyway, there is a big political advantage for the Modi government 2.0 that this bet will prevent the opposition from uniting. But the BJP Chief Minister is said to be unwilling to dissolve his assembly ahead of time. So the question is bound to arise that ‘when BJP has not been able to make its own people agree on this issue, then how will other political parties come with them’. There is also a vital question that even if simultaneous elections are held, how will the midterm elections be halted? How can the no-confidence motion brought by the opposition be stopped? If this is not taken care of, the basic spirit of democracy will be attacked. It will be important to amend Article 83 for conducting simultaneous elections, Article 85 for suspending and abolishing parliamentary sessions, Article 172 for determining the tenure of the Legislative Assembly and Article 174 for suspending and abolishing the Legislative Assembly. Moreover, it will be necessary to amend Article 356 to impose President’s rule. Apart from this, the state governments will have to be dissolved even before the completion of their term. However, no such option has been given except in the 3 articles of the constitution, when the central government is empowered to dissolve state governments. Legislative assemblies are not under the Lok Sabha. Both are constituted under different articles. Any such attempt would be unconstitutional. Apart from this, a two-thirds majority in the House will also be required to amend the Constitution.

Tenure of some states will have to be extended if polls are to be held in sync, others will have to be dissolved. Interestingly, when Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, the NDA had governments in 7 states, but today the BJP and its allies are in power in 15 states. In 2018, the BJP and its allies had governments in 21 states. And this was the time when it was easy to set up a ‘One Nation One Election’

The federal structure has its own language, identity, and culture. If elections are held simultaneously, the local issues of the states will disappear from the political discourse. Anyway, the political discussion revolves around national issues. That is, holding simultaneous elections would hurt the federal system of the country. If seen from the perspective of  One Nation, One Election, the political party that will benefit the most is the BJP. Whether it is general elections or assembly elections, the BJP contests elections only in the name of Narendra Modi. Modi is the star campaigner for the BJP. Anyway, Modi is the first Prime Minister of India to have held the largest number of election rallies. That is, the BJP wants to take full advantage of Modi’s star image. Anyway, most of Modi’s time is spent in election rallies. If elections are held together, PM Modi will save a lot of time. Due to frequent elections, disputes of religion and caste keep cropping up. Some political parties raise these issues to make electoral gains. Due to repeated elections, corruption also gets a chance to flourish.

MODI- THE CHAMPION OF CAMPAIGN
Narendra Modi’s election campaign as the PM candidate in the Lok Sabha elections was unprecedented. With his meticulous campaign in 2014, he had broken all old records. According to data released by the BJP, Modi had set a record by covering a distance of more than three lakh kilometres

WHEN we look back two decades, the image of election campaigns comes alive with flags on vehicles, loud slogans that appeal to voters to support candidates, and children running to win plastic or paper badges. Now, this scene has completely changed and has been replaced by a six-inch mobile phone screen. 

In the last decade, social media emerged as a powerful medium for election campaigns. There would hardly be any political party that is not using these social media platforms to put forward their point of view and respond to the allegations of rivals. 

Nowadays a theory of mass communication is working behind the propaganda of political parties on social media mediums like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or YouTube. Due to this, people depend less directly on any source of mass communication for information or ideas and take their information from someone else in society. That person is an opinion leader, whose words are listened to and sometimes even obeyed. This is called the two-step theory because it is very rare that the media say or show something and people believe it. 

Digital promotion is divided into two parts. One is the production process and the other is the promotion process. In the production process, videos of candidates are shot using high-quality cameras. In the video, the manifesto of the candidate, the work he has done, and his accomplishments are highlighted, and it is widely promoted. Videos can be sent to voters with the help of mediums like Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram.

Banners and posters of the parties are being distributed to the people on a large scale. All of this has been done with the help of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. But digital campaigns are not equal for all parties. Only those who have deep pockets can win digital campaigns. The one who has more money, his campaign will be more successful. There is no limit on spending on social media either. In any one area, the expenditure on digital expenditure for any one candidate ranges from four to 15 lakhs. On the other hand, if a digital campaign is to be run in the entire state, the cost could go up to 15 crores. 

CHANGED THE TREND

With the emergence of Narendra Modi on the scene of Indian politics, the methods of political campaigns and election campaigns have changed forever. Modi’s vision about using digital campaigns in elections has changed the complete scenario. Contesting every election on a different issue has been the forte of Modi. Three assembly elections were held in Gujarat when he was Chief Minister. In all three elections, Modi contested on different issues. Unlike the 2002 election, which was fought over hardline Hindutva, the 2007 assembly election campaign was on Gujarat’s vibrant culture. In this election, Modi won the election by making an issue of the identity of 5.5 crores Gujaratis. In the 2012 assembly elections, Modi won the polls by projecting himself as the next Prime Minister. 

In the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP could not make development a central issue. LK Advani failed to make the BJP successful, especially in 2009, due to his staunch Hindu image. In 2014, Narendra Modi made development the main issue, sidelining the BJP’s staunch Hindu image. He gave the slogan ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. It was a very catchy slogan. In 2019, he added everyone’s faith and everyone’s effort to it. It would raise hope among the people. Additionally, he gave several slogans designed to undermine 10 years of Congress’ power. His slogan, ‘Modi hai to mumkin hai’  became very popular, while the opposition fought the elections standing only on the political pitch of BJP or anti-Modi and lost every time.  

In the last 9 years, PM Narendra Modi’s aggressive campaign and promotion of modern technology have played a big and significant role in the BJP’s victory in one state after another. The biggest political event of the past year was not the BJP’s landslide victory in the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. It was Modi who led the entire election campaign for the BJP. His popularity, which was not linked to the performance of the state government, helped the BJP to a historic victory.

Modi’s election campaign as the PM candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was unprecedented. With his meticulous campaign, he had broken all old records. According to data released by the BJP, Modi had set a record by covering a distance of more than three lakh kilometres. He participated in 5827 programs and used a combination of traditional and creative methods of campaigning. These included his 4000 ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ programs. Modi discussed with the people of many cities in the country through a video link. In this, Modi had 437 public meetings in 25 states, and 1350 3D rallies in about 9 months, besides two big roadshows in Vadodara and Varanasi. BJP claims this was the biggest public relations campaign in India’s election history. Through this, Modi reached 10 crore Indians.

IMPORTANCE OF DISSEMINATION 

The worldwide information revolution has put mobile phones in almost every hand. Mobile is one of the strongest means of communication. PM Narendra Modi understood its importance, and he used the app for his election campaign. In 2014, he created an app named ‘India 272’. Through this app, BJP workers were given the target of winning 272 seats on their own. Modi used social media as a strong weapon in the campaign. However, Congress was the first to take the initiative in using technology in the elections. But Modi understood the power of social media and its importance. But Modi recruited experts and companies from abroad and used all the platforms of social media very well for his image-building. He was the first to use 3D technology in campaigning in the country, which was very popular in the 2014 polls. But Modi used it for the first time in the 2012 assembly elections in Gujarat. On 20 November 2012, Modi held the first rally in four cities simultaneously with 3D technology. This was a unique initiative in the election campaigns at that time in India.

However, later in 2013, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Chauhan also used this technology. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi used 3D technology extensively to reach more people in less time. He also got a lot of benefits from it in the election. This was Modi’s thinking ahead of his time. After the attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama in 2019, the surgical strike in Balakot gave the BJP a one-sided victory in the elections. The opposition is also apprehensive about the 2024 elections, considering Modi’s mastery of the art of using unconventional methods of campaigning. Modi has turned the campaign against himself into his favour and achieved his biggest victory ever.

What effect will the change in public opinion have on the mandate? This will remain the biggest question in national politics. The year 2023 is a year of transition, a year stuck between the echo of 2022 and the sound of 2024. This year everyone’s eyes will be focused on one question. Will the political change that started in 2022 take the form of a change of power in 2024? 

After the attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama in 2019, the air strike in Balakot gave the BJP a one-sided victory in the elections. The opposition is also apprehensive about the 2024 elections, considering Modi’s mastery of the art of using unconventional methods of campaigning. He has turned the campaign against himself into his favour and achieved his biggest victory ever

Geeta Singh

Geeta Singh has spent 20 years covering cinema, music, and society giving new dimensions to feature writing. She has to her credit the editorship of a film magazine. She is also engaged in exploring the socio-economic diversity of Indian politics. She is the co-founder of Parliamentarian.

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