Lately there has been too much debate — totally misguided, in my opinion — over this super idea of One Nation, One Election. Regular readers of this column would know I don’t use words like ‘misguided’ lightly. So when I say ‘misguided’, I mean not that there should be no debate but that it should be the right debate.
But before we get to the right debate, let’s first get rid of the non-debate: Is ‘One Nation, One Election’ a better idea than what we have today? Undoubtedly yes! What we have today is ‘One Nation, Too Many Elections’. And this goes right to the heart of India’s biggest problem today: too much democracy. The more elections you have, the more impossible it is to change anything.
Take Mumbai, for example. Every year the citizens of this great city suffer in monsoon floods like ants dropped in a bucket of water. And yet, for as long as anyone remembers, they’ve been voting for the same party in the municipal elections. It’s because they are smart people who understand well that elections have nothing to do with solving people’s problems. On the contrary, it is elections that create problems for people. In fact, elections are the biggest threat to human life and well-being — bigger than air pollution, road accidents and cancer.
No one in her right mind would deny that if there were no elections, the number of people killed or orphaned by communal violence would come down drastically.
It is well established that the likelihood of communal riots is directly proportional to the likelihood of an election in the region or State in question.
Not just rioters, even Pakistan becomes hyperactive before major elections in India — sending terrorists across the border to attack our security forces, forcing India to conduct surgical strikes and making Indians lynch fellow-Indians for secretly supporting Pakistan by refusing to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. If there were less elections — or just one election — imagine how many lives we could save! Apart from loss of life and property, the most damaging fallout of the current practice of holding too many elections is mental — it is leading more and more people into the delusion that they can change things by voting. Then there’s the monumental waste of scarce resources — something a poor country like India can ill afford. It is baffling that the very people who are outraged over thousands of crores being spent on advertisements to publicise the government’s achievements (such as they are) have no problem with thousands of crores spent on multiple elections every year. And yet, what’s a general election if not a lavishly budgeted participative publicity spectacle to advertise India’s democracy, such as it is?
In other words, economic rationality demands that we reduce the number of elections to the bare minimum, so that taxpayers’ money can be used more productively. Just imagine how many more statues we can build from the money saved by holding simultaneous elections? According to an estimate by the Naughty Aiyaiyog, if we completely synchronise ALL elections in the country so that they are held just once in five years along with the Lok Sabha polls, the savings generated will be enough to replace every single Gandhi statue in India with a Godse statue AND put?15 lakh in the Paithiyam wallet of every Indian.
But for this we need to synchronise not just Assembly and Lok Sabha elections but also all the Lions Club elections, Rotary Club elections, RWA elections, students’ union elections and class monitor elections of every section of every class of every school in India.
To my mind, this makes complete sense because there is effectively only one candidate for any and every election in India.
This brings us finally to the debate we should actually be having: ‘One Nation, One Election’ doesn’t go far enough as a reform, given that there is no Opposition to make even one election a meaningful contest. So why not ‘One Nation, Zero Election’? Holding any election at all when the results are a foregone conclusion is the stupidity of an antediluvian, Nehruvian mindset. We need to grow out of it if we want to become a powerful country like China, which, for your kind information, not only defeated Nehru, but also has, unlike India, a permanent UNSC seat.
How many elections does China have? Zero. That is the path we must take: ‘One Nation, Zero Election’.
There is also a historical and sentimental reason why we should drop ‘One Nation, One Election’ in favour of ‘One Nation, Zero Election’: unlike 1, which is an Arabic numeral, 0 was invented by India. We have a right to be zero.
The writer is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu and can be reached at [email protected]