Pressing Panic Button

Dr Suresh Mathew Dr Suresh Mathew
11 Sep 2023

When things go out of hand, people press the panic button. This seems to be happening with the government that is staring at many things going against it. If the pressing problems of the people are turning the tide against the government, the formation of ‘INDIA’ front by 28 opposition parties has come as a stumbling block in the ruling party’s ‘passage to 2024’. Some of the unexpected moves and unearthing of old ideas by the government are seemingly meant to tide over the rising wave of people’s discontentment.       

The ‘distraction balloon’ of ‘one-nation, one-election’ and the reported move to replace ‘India’ with ‘Bharat’ seem to be the last straw to stick to power. The country had mostly simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies from 1950, when India became a Republic, to 1967 when the process got disrupted. As regional parties and regional aspirations became strong, State governments fell and elections to Assemblies got dissociated with general elections. This shows the victory of electoral democracy. It is ill-advised and impractical to have the Lok Sabha elections along with 28 State Assemblies and 8 Union Territories. Going by the way State governments fell like house of cards in the past, the Centre’s move is half-baked and quixotic. It is incompatible with the vagaries of parliamentary democracy, plurality of States, diversity of parties, and the federal structure of the country.  

The government’s argument that India is in ‘permanent campaign’ mode and it affects the development activities has no merit and is against the ground reality. For example, there is no reason why a State election in one state or a few states should affect the development works in other states as the model code would be applicable only where elections take place. Another argument that the cost of elections can be brought down in simultaneous polls could be partially true, but there are studies which point out that election spending by parties and candidates benefits the economy and the government’s tax revenues. 

Hence, there is more to it than meet the eyes on the government’s sudden move for simultaneous polls. If a party has only one leader to be showcased from local elections to the general elections, the idea of ‘one-nation, one-election’ suits it. It becomes easy for the party to campaign under one leader, seeking votes in his/her name. We have seen it in the past when the BJP unabashedly declared in State elections that every vote is a vote for Narendra Modi as if the latter is going to rule the State. Those who are in the forefront of ‘one-nation, one-election’ campaign have just one face to seek votes. This might suit a presidential form of government, but is incongruous with democracy. 

Those who pressed the panic button of ‘Bharat’ have forgotten the very first Article of the Constitution of India which says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” The world knows India, not Bharat. Every prestigious institution is in the name of India; every well-known Public Sector Undertaking is in the name of India; the passport of every citizen is in the name of India. Even Modi’s favourite slogans like Skill India, Make in India and many more are in the name of India. Tughlaqian decisions may bring short-term benefits, but would not help in the long run. The result of the disastrous demonetisation is before us. Prudence demands that the past should work as a rudder to guide us.

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