ECI needs six months to a year for ‘one-nation-one-election’, says report

The Kovind Committee's second meeting on one-nation-one-election is highly anticipated, with focus on an Indian Express report regarding the ECI's readiness

The first meeting of the One Nation One Election Committee held in New Delhi (photo: @airnewsalerts/X)
The first meeting of the One Nation One Election Committee held in New Delhi (photo: @airnewsalerts/X)

Shalini Sahay

The Indian Express on Monday, 23 October reported that the Election Commission of India (ECI) had conveyed to the Kovind Committee, the Law Commission and the government that it would require ‘six months to one year’ to finalise arrangements to conduct simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.

Former chief election commissioner OP Rawat had said in September that the proposal had been in the works since 2015, and pointed out that the Law Commission, Niti Ayog, the Union government and ECI were on the same page on the issue. There was, therefore, no reason for the Law Commission to delay its final recommendation.

While opinion is sharply divided on the contentious issue, Rawat had advanced two arguments in favour of the proposal. Simultaneous elections had taken place in four successive elections between 1952 and 1967, he said. Moreover, he cited examples of state elections held together with the general elections in 2019, in which results for the Lok Sabha were different from those for state assemblies. This proved that Indian voters are now "mature and discerning", and fears that national issues would overwhelm local issues in case of simultaneous polls were misplaced.

Rawat had also added that the ECI had suggested ways to bring the assembly elections in sync with the Lok Sabha. State assemblies which may have been elected ‘recently’, with a long time to go for their terms to end, may not be disturbed, while assemblies which may have a few extra months for their terms to end may be brought under President’s Rule for the remainder of their terms.

The Indian Express report, however, quotes sources within the ECI as saying that the global shortage of semiconductor chips following the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have upset the production schedules for electronic voting machines and VVPAT (voter verified paper trail) units. As much as 80 per cent of its budget for EVMs and VVPAT units remains unspent owing to inability on the part of the producers, Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL), to maintain production schedules.

For the 2024 Lok Sabha elections alone, the ECI will require 11.49 lakh control units, 15.9 lakh ballot units and 12.37 lakh VVPAT units for 11.8 lakh polling stations.

The Kovind Committee in its second meeting on Wednesday this week is likely to finalise its recommendations on the constitutional amendments required to make changes in four different laws before one-nation-one-election can be rolled out.

However, the Opposition continues to believe that the proposal is impractical and against the federal structure of the Constitution. Governments, they have pointed out, can fall for various reasons and due to unforeseen circumstances. If the government falls at the Centre, as has happened in the past, will all state assemblies be dissolved or brought under President’s Rule, they have pointedly asked.

However, while the Opposition is convinced that the bogey of ONOE is a jumla and a diversionary tactic, neither the Law Commission nor the ECI has shown any inclination to address the rebuttals contained in the scathing op-ed piece by former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa in the Indian Express last month, or the concerns of the Opposition.

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