PM Modi announces to form ‘one nation, one poll’ panel amid Oppn dissent

PM Modi announces to form ‘one nation, one poll’ panel amid Oppn dissent
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New Delhi, June 19: In one of his first political initiatives after taking over for a second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced at an all-party meeting that a committee would be formed to examine the issue of ‘one country, one election’ and give its suggestions in a time-bound manner, even as several Opposition parties, including the Congress, skipped the meeting.
Union defence minister Rajnath Singh later said that out of the 40 parties invited for the meeting, heads of 21 parties attended. “Three other parties have given their opinion in writing. So, we have got the opinion of altogether 24 parties,” Singh said. “All parties supported the idea of simultaneous polls. The CPI and CPI (M), however, expressed difference of opinions on how it can be done, but they too, didn’t oppose the idea of ‘one nation, one election’. They only expressed some apprehension,” he added.
The contours of the panel were not immediately clear.
The Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Telugu Desam Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party were among the parties that did not attend the meeting.
In his first statement on the meeting, PM Modi wrote on Twitter:“Had a great meeting with Presidents of various political parties. Multiple issues of national importance were discussed. I thank the various leaders for their informed suggestions.”
The PM first mooted the idea of ‘one nation, one poll’ early in his previous term. Subsequently, a parliamentary standing committee, the Niti Aayog and the Law Commission deliberated on the issue, sought inputs of parties, and submitted reports. The issue has starkly divided India’s political actors. Its advocates, including the BJP, have argued the move would help focus on governance, reduce expenditure, and help channel security forces more efficiently. Its critics, including the Congress, have alleged that the move will undermine democratic accountability, the federal structure and also pointed to its lack of feasibility within the constitutional scheme.
In Wednesday’s meeting, Modi contended that the plan for simultaneous elections for assemblies and Parliament is not just the NDA government’s agenda but that of the entire country. Singh, who conducted the meeting, said: “If there is any difference of opinion, we respect such difference and will seriously consider such opinions. We won’t go ahead without taking all other parties on board on this issue.”
Since the invitation for the meeting was only extended to the head of all political parties present in Parliament, at least three leaders, including a state minister from AIADMK, could not attend.
Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi said that party president Rahul Gandhi expressed regret to the government for not attending, but the party had strong reservations about simultaneous polls. “Our legal experts, our constitutional experts have also said that this is perversion of the Constitution. The framer of our Constitution envisioned flexibility and envisioned federalism. So this brings in a sense of rigidity, this brings us constitutional change.”
He added: “There has not been enough study into it and the party which is proposing the idea itself is being inconsistent. When they can’t hold two state elections simultaneously – forget about State, they can’t hold two Rajya Sabha seats elections simultaneously. My request is, please show your willingness and hold the two Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat at the same time.”
Congress leader Milind Deora, however, said in a statement that his “personal view” on the issue is that the government’s proposal on conducting simultaneous polls was “worthy of a debate” that calls for an “open mind” and that being in “continuous election mode is a roadblock to good governance”.
BSP chief Mayawati boycotted the meeting and said it would be far more important to have a consultation on the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) instead; TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee argued that the issue needed much greater deliberation and demanded a ‘white paper’ on the issue.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also opposed the idea for being against the federal structure. “I represented @aimim_national at the all party meeting held today On #OneNationOneElection, I reiterated our stand that simultaneous elections are inconsistent with parliamentary democracy & federalism. Therefore, they violate the basic structure of our Constitution,” Owaisi tweeted.
Among those who attended the meeting, Biju Janata Dal leader and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, YSR Congress Party’s Jaganmohan Reddy, and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan supported the idea.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury said that India initially had ‘one nation, one election’ but state polls eventually got detached as there was a gross violation of Article 356. “Prolonging or shortening of assembly is anti-democracy, anti-federal. It’s bringing presidential rule in a backdoor,” he said. He added that the party was completely opposed to the idea.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar also expressed doubts if simultaneous polls can be conducted in the current legal framework.
Any push towards ‘one poll’ will require major constitutional amendments, changing provisions which deal with the duration and dissolution of the Lok Sabha, and the duration and dissolution of state assemblies.
Former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, P Sreedharan, spoke about the proposal, cautioning that conducting simultaneous elections won’t be an easy task.?“An idea has been thrown for discussion. But we have to wait for the detailed plan on how the government plans to do this. But given India’s divergence in the political spectrum, it would not be an easy job to conduct simultaneous polls,” he said.
Then chief election commissioner OP Rawat said last year that simultaneous elections are not possible without a legal framework as any extension or curtailment of the term of assemblies will require a constitutional amendment. Poll officials had said that all political parties needed to be brought on board before such an exercise could be carried out.
On Wednesday, former CEC HS Brahma said that simultaneous elections could be a boon for the country. “This can remove disruptions and leave the government to function freely for five years. It will not affect the social and economic life of the voters and will simply require a minor amendment in the Constitution and changes in the electoral rolls. I think it is a welcome move,” he said.
According to an official release, all parties also agreed to improve the performance of Parliament and reduce disruptions. (Courtesy: HT)