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In meeting called by Law Commission, most parties oppose simultaneous polls

The panel had invited recognised national and state parties to a consultation on simultaneous voting to the state and national legislatures

New Delhi: Most political parties, including those friendly with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told the Law Commission on Saturday that they are opposed to the proposal of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies saying that it was against the constitution and would dilute regional interests.

Parties that opposed the proposal included the Trinamool Congress, the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which is perceived to be close to the BJP, and BJP ally, Goa Forward Party (GFP), opposed it.

The AIADMK said it was opposed to holding simultaneous elections in 2019 but can consider the proposal in 2024 if there is a consensus on the issue.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, supported the proposal, which has been strongly articulated many times by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Law Commission had written to recognised national and state parties to participate in the consultation on simultaneous polls on July 7 and 8.

Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee, who put forward the party’s views before the Law Commission, later said that Modi’s concept of simultaneous elections in the country is “impractical and unconstitutional”.

“The basic structure of the constitution cannot be changed. We are against the concept of the simultaneous election because it is against the constitution. It should not be done.

“It is impractical, not possible and contrary to the constitution. Democracy and government should be given priority. The financial issue is secondary, first priority is the constitution and democracy. Constitution has to be upheld,” he said.

AIADMK leader M. Thambidurai told reporters that it was not possible to hold simultaneous elections in 2019. “It is not possible in 2019 because people of states like Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal, Tamil Nadu and others have voted a government for five years. Let these assemblies complete their full term,” he said.

Thambidurai, who is Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker, said that, if needed, the proposal could be considered in 2024. “At that time, we can consider. The people and the stake holders should be given adequate time to present their views. It needs constitutional amendment. If they bring it for constitutional amendment in 2024, we will consider it. We don’t want simultaneous polls in 2019,” he said.

GFP president Vijai Sardesai said the party had expressed its opposition to the proposal obecause it goes against federalism. “It would affect the federal structure of the country. The entire proposal is impractical. It won’t work,” Sardesai said.

He said that if the proposal was implemented, the regional issues would go to the back burner. “The idea is good but will dilute issues of regional nature,” he said.

CPI leader Atul Anjan said the Law Commission had been asked to hold consultations as part of the ‘One country, One election’ agenda being pushed by Modi.

“The CPI feels that holding simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and assemblies in the present social and economic conditions, when states have their own agenda and difficulties, is against the basic spirit of the constitution,” he said.

Anjan said he came to know from the Law Commission that the Law Ministry had asked the panel to examine the concept and averred that parliament was the right platform to discuss the issue.

SAD MP Naresh Gujral though said the party “fully supports” the proposal.

He said elections have become very expensive and it was in national interest not to spend so much money. Gujral also said that imposition of Election Code of Conduct ahead of elections impacts decision-making and almost one year of the five-year term of a government goes in preparing for various elections.

The Indian Union Muslim League opposed the proposal, with its secretary Khorrum A. Omer telling the commission that it will not bring about any significant improvement in the electoral process.

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury had written a letter to the Law Commission earlier this week and termed the idea of simultaneous polls as “inherently anti-democratic”.

Yechury said the proposal “negates the principles of federalism, which is a fundamental feature of India’s constitution”.

Yechury had turned down the Law Commission’s invitation for a personal discussion on the matter.

The Congress indicated that it will present its views before the commission. “We are in talks with all the opposition parties and we shall be taking a joint decision on that. We are not going to boycott. We are going to talk to the opposition leaders and come up with our own suggestion,” party leader R.P.N. Singh told reporters at the party’s official briefing.

The Law Commission had come out with a draft white paper in April on the simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the assemblies that contained its possible recommendations. It said that simultaneous elections may be restored in the nation by amending the constitution, Representation of the People Act of 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies.

It said that elections in 2019 could be held in phases, with some states going to the polls along with 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the others in 2024.

Another proposal was that parties which introduce a no-confidence motion should simultaneously give a suggestion for an alternative government.

The commission had noted that simultaneous elections were held in the country during the first two decades after Independence up to 1967.

Commission sources indicated that the consultations could continue on July 10.

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