Simultaneous polls finds few takers among opposition parties, Cong stays silent

Consensus eluded the Law Commission’s consultation with political parties on Sunday over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal to hold simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, even as the Samajwadi Party backed the idea, citing frequent impositions of the model code of conduct.

While political parties such as the Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Aam Aadmi Party have called the idea undemocratic and anti-federal, others opposed to it include the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Telugu Desam and Janata Dal (Secular), an official of the panel said on condition of anonymity. Apart from the SP, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi was the only other non-NDA party to come out in support of simultaneous polls, the official said.

The SP, represented by Ram Gopal Yadav, said the first simultaneous polls should be held in 2019, when the term of the 16th Lok Sabha comes to an end.

Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said his party supported the idea, as months are spent preparing for polls through the year.

On Sunday, the second and penultimate day of the consultations, AAP lawmaker Ashish Khetan told the panel that simultaneous elections “will destroy our parliamentary democracy”.

Barring the Biju Janata Dal, whose representative and lawmaker Pinaki Misra will meet commission officials on Tuesday, all other parties that had agreed to join the consultation have finished meeting the panel’s team headed by chairman BS Chauhan. Misra said the BJD was a strong supporter of the idea. “It was originally Naveen Patnaik who mooted the idea. We are going to tell the commission, we are absolutely for it,” he said.

While submitting a draft working paper to the government on the issue on April 18, the commission had pointed out that political consensus would be key to the issue. A panel member had said the changes needed in the law – including amending the Constitution and electoral laws of the country – could not be achieved in the absence of a consensus. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament followed by ratification by half of the state legislatures.

While the Congress has stayed away from the exercise, of the parties that appeared before the panel, a majority have opposed the idea, a panel member present at the deliberations said. “The All India Forward Bloc told the Law Commission that the proposal is against the time-tested republic and democratic traditions. It is detrimental to the federal character of the nation,” said G Deverajan, the party’s secretary.

A top panel official said the BJP has been assigned a time for a meeting later this month. “We will take a view after everyone’s views have been taken on board. More parties are expected to come forward with their submissions,” he added.

“One issue raised in the meeting was the Prime Minister has to campaign in the state elections frequently. Who has asked him to campaign in all states at the cost of governance? His primary responsibility is to run the country,” AAP’s Khetan said after Sunday’s meeting. “We will move from a parliamentary democracy to a managed democracy, if this is allowed to happen.”

Those supporting the idea have backed Modi’s argument that simultaneous polls will lead to reduction of election expenses and that parties will not have to be in election mode through the year. Parties opposed to it have called the proposal an attempt to change the basic structure of the Constitution.

On Saturday, the Shiromani Akali Dal had supported the concept, saying it would reduce the expenditure of parties. The AIADMK had said the concept was “desirable” but certain “practical” and “serious” issues needed to be settled first.

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