One Nation, One Electoral Roll - Ideas to reform the Indian Election System

  • Article seeks to provoke thought by exploring the intricacies w.r.t having a common electoral roll.

Very recently the Prime Minister’s Office has started a consultative process with the Election Commission of India, the Law ministry and other few ministries on the feasibility of a Common Electoral Roll for all types of elections at the local, state and national levels in India. Of course, the idea is not new in that the Law Commission had proposed it in its 255th Report in 1915 and the Election Commission had also made similar proposals in 1999 and 2004.

In this context this article analyses the whole gamut of issues involved in having a unified and integrated electoral roll. This way every citizen would feel empowered to participate in representative democratic polity. 

As "We, the People, …" constitute the real bottom line of our Republic, the people are the real ‘sovereigns’ of India. The real spirit of sovereignty and democracy of the Union of India lies with her ‘Citizens', not with the ‘States' or the ‘Parliament’ and the ‘Judiciary’. So the democratic norms have to be institutionalised in the right spirit right from the bottom upwards. That is why the institutions of Gram Panchayats and Nagar Panchayats have rightly been institutionalised through Constitutional Amendments.  

But the perceptions regarding these grassroots democratic formalisations have been so negative and the common citizens do feel that the national and state-level elections get more attention and importance in the agenda of the political parties than the local self-government elections. This is the most dangerous and fallacious reality in a functional democracy like India which is going through different centrifugal and centripetal forces operating in a nation-building process. 

The whole election process has been divided into two constitutional setups: one conducted by the EC for national and state elections, and the other by the State Election Commissions (SECs) for panchayat and municipal elections in the states.

The moot question is: Why couldn't the whole election process be unified and integrated at all levels of Indian election system using modern technology to address the loss of man-hour, expenditure and unnecessary duplication of the same tasks?  Let us discuss the issues of unified reforms in the electoral process in India.


Firstly, the Common Electoral Roll.

Instead of amending the Articles 243K and 243ZA of the Constitution of India to have a Common Electoral Roll for all three-tier elections, we may abolish SECs by repealing both the Articles and the whole election process be entrusted with the single command of the Election Commission of India to bridge the trust deficits of the people in local elections.

In the present administrative structure, the role of local governments have assumed so vernal importance that their elections should be held in a free and fair manner by the national-level EC. Of course, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) should be the prime source to construct the Common Electoral Roll in future in a phased manner by the EC.


Secondly, the Permanent Electoral Cadre. i

At present the EC has no permanent staffing system and is solely dependent on the requisition of required staff from both the Union and State governments to conduct elections throughout India. But through appropriate Constitutional amendments and changes in the Representation of the Peoples Act, a separate Electoral cadre should be created to head at least the state and district level election machinery to conduct all elections in a free, fair and unbiased manner.  


Thirdly, the National Selection Commission.

Through appropriate amendments a National Selection Commission should be established comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition or the largest opposition party, and the Chief Justice of India to select the Chief Election Commissioner, other Election Commissioners etc. It is necessary to ensure the whole process of appointments for the constitutional and statutory posts is free, fair and equitable ways commensurate with democratic spirits and norms. 


Fourthly, Party-less Elections at local level.

At present the States have followed its own system in local elections by enacting relevant Acts through its Legislatures as per the mandate of the Constitutional provisions.

But the moot questions: Is it relevant to follow party-based elections in local level governments? Is it necessary to make local elections so partisan to vitiate the ground level body-politic of our society?

Presently there has been no party-based election system in local governments in Bihar, Karnataka etc.

Through Constitutional amendments, party-less local governments can be ensured to operate at the ground level without colouring local governance following the true spirit of age-old autonomy and unbiasedness of the Panchayati system of Bharat so that there arise no questions of party-loyalty and discriminations in delivering government benefits as per the policy of the States and the Union governments.


Fifthly, the Common Poll.

It is one of the most burning issues concerning the electoral process in India. It is a fact that India has now always been in 'an election mode' either for the national or state/local level elections. Time, money and labour have been wasted enormously, and the developmental process gets a nosedive due to different levels of elections. 

The relevant questions: Is it possible to conduct both national and state elections simultaneously? And, can all levels of elections can be conducted simultaneously? 


National consensus would probably be elusive. But we can evolve a National Policy on Elections with a ‘One Nation, Two Elections' policy so that the national and state and local elections are held with a gap of not less than two years and not more than three years, to be conducted by the EC. 

Other issues on tenures of the Houses should be mitigated appropriately through amendments. This scheme may be put in perspective after the new delimitation exercise is completed in 2026.


There arise no questions on the credibility and capability of the Election Commission in conducting free, fair and unbiased elections in the largest democracy of the world. The complete synchronization of EVM with VVPAT and Zero Statistical Error have already proved the efficacy of the decisions of not using the ballot-paper voting system by the EC beyond reasonable doubts. 


Thus, a comprehensive and unified electoral reform becomes necessary as Indian citizens begin to celebrate 75 years of their nation’s independence in 2022. 

Author is a Research Analyst with Ph.D in Entrepreneurship. He is also guest Management faculty and authored research articles and books.  

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