New Delhi, September 1, 2023 (IANS): The Central government has constituted a high-powered panel headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind to explore the possibility of much-talked-about “One Nation, One Election”.
This is a shocker for the political opponents and detractors of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But this is revolutionary and one of the much sought after “pro-reform” strategies. There are chances now the country could be headed towards a Presidential form of government.
Now whether this happens by 2023-24 or later could be looked into at a later stage.
Answers to questions on these lines remain best in the womb of time. The idea of “One Nation, One Election” is in tune with the political philosophy of the BJP and even the presidential form of government has been endorsed by the BJP stalwarts like L. K. Advani in the past.
In fact, in 2018, none other than the then President Ram Nath Kovind had told Parliament, “Frequent elections not only impose a huge burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of the model code of conduct”.
For his part, Modi has pushed the idea strongly especially for simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls.
Hence the decision to set up a panel underscores the government’s seriousness on the matter.
In 1998-99 these ideas gained currency after the Vajpayee government took over the reins of the government following three years of political instability under United Front – a conglomeration of regional and caste-based parties supported by the Leftists and the Congress.
BJP ideologues such as K R Malkani used to raise concern that the Indian polity has sunk to abysmal depths. Elections were almost farce and marked by violence and booth capturing. There was deep concern also about the emergence of caste-based politics and also criminilisation of politics.
The conviction by the saffron think tanks and individuals used to be that electoral politics is at the source of all these ailments/perversions.
‘One Nation, One Election’ if implemented could lead to Presidential form of government and that would be something to ensure a strong and stable central/federal government as is understood in the US.
The British model that India followed envisages a system with a responsible cabinet and sovereign parliament. But in the US, the system is Presidential. There one has an executive central government for a “federation” and that would function in close coordination with the judiciary. In some cases even the judiciary gets upper hand.
In the US, of course, experts would say the separation of powers doctrine has been made ‘workable’ with right checks and balances. This will be a challenging area in the Indian context.
If the US model is adopted, one major factor/transition will be the civil service “losing” its vice-like grip over governance machineries. This is also reform and a revolutionary strategy. It is believed doing away with the “babudom” and red-tapes (something PM Modi keeps repeating) will also ensure quicker implementation of plan projects.
However, one major concern is it will be less democratic and smaller parties will slowly and gradually cease to exist.
Hence there will be a lot of “hungama” about the reform especially to endorse a Presidential form of government.
However, such a system will encourage a two or three party system and technically it will allow “reviving” the Congress party with a renewed look.
During the Vajpayee era, the likes of Advani must have dreamt about such a situation with One Nation, One Election and even the Presidential form of government. But the BJP did not have numbers in Parliament. But in 2023 — the Amrit Kaal, the saffron party is having adequate numbers in parliament and is in power in several states.
The Presidential form encourages to uphold a political system where the president is a national hero. The bill suits Modi rather easily. In the states, probably Chief Ministers will be replaced by Governors and the “governors” too will be the provincial hero.
Efficiency will be encouraged automatically and the voters will not have to vote on petty caste and religion considerations. The stage may be set as Bibek Debroy recently wrote an article pushing for a new constitution.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist and author of the books ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’, and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. Views expressed are personal) (IANS)