One Nation, One Poll: What Ram Nath Kovind Panel Said About Economic Impact Of Simultaneous Polls

The findings in the paper reported relatively higher economic growth, lower inflation, higher investments, and improved quality of expenditure following periods of synchronized elections
Ram Nath Kovind
Ram Nath Kovind

The much-debated 'One Nation, One Poll' concept is picking up momentum as the high-level committee, under the leadership of former President Ramnath Kovind, has just delivered its hefty report of over 18,000 pages to President Droupadi Murmu. On Thursday, the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah took to X, calling the day historic.

The committee's recommendation included the synchronization of elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies as an initial measure, followed by the conduct of municipal and panchayat polls within 100 days of the general election in subsequent phases. While state parties have their own take on the controversial topic, the economic impact of simultaneous elections on India's federal pulse is something worth looking at.

What is 'One Nation, One Poll?'

'One Nation, One Poll' aims to streamline or synchronise the election process across all levels, which means that all citizens would vote for Lok Sabha, state legislative assembly, Panchayats and Municipalities in the same year, though not necessarily in the same day. This unified approach is put together mainly to simplify things by reducing the frequency of voting events being held in the country.

The Economic Impact

The panel suggested that simultaneous elections could contribute to a 1.5 percentage point rise in GDP, amounting to Rs 4.5 lakh crore rupees in the fiscal year 2024. This sum represents half of the public expenditure on health and one-third of that on education. The findings in the paper highlighted relatively higher economic growth, lower inflation, higher investments, and improved quality of expenditure following periods of synchronized elections.

The report also added that economic growth could potentially be higher, by around 2.4 percentage points, post-simultaneous elections as compared to non-simultaneous elections.

Even at the state level, the proposal could result in a significant rise in Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) growth, even when considering differences among states and external factors.

As per the findings in the report, there is also a difference in the capital-to-current spending ratio before and after simultaneous elections compared to non-simultaneous election periods. The ratio is estimated to be 17.67 percentage points higher during simultaneous election episodes.

This suggests that not only is there an increase in overall public spending after simultaneous elections, but the spending is also tilted more towards capital investments rather than revenue expenditures. 

The underlying Cost

According to the Election Commission, if simultaneous elections are conducted for Lok Sabha and state assemblies, it would require an estimated Rs 10,000 crore every 15 years to procure new Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The Commission conveyed to the government that the shelf life of EVMs is 15 years, and one set of machines could be utilized to conduct three cycles of elections during this period if simultaneous polls were implemented.

ECI had earlier stated that simultaneous elections could only be held in 2029, owing to factors like the production of new machines, warehousing expansion, and logistical challenges.

The Conflict

Among the 47 political parties that shared their responses with the panel, 32 were in favor of simultaneous elections, with 15 voicing their opposition.

While those in favour argue that simultaneous elections could save time and reduce the administrative burden on election personnel, the opposition parties are worried about its effects on India's federal pulse, potential changes in the constitutional structure, and blanketing of local concerns.  

However, as the nation gears up for the upcoming elections, the prospects of 'one nation, one poll' remain uncertain, atleast for this year.

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