The ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress today stayed away from day one of consultations by the Law Commission on feasibility of holding Lok Sabha and assembly polls together even as regional parties expressed apprehensions that simultaneous elections would allow national players and issues to dominate the polls and put smaller parties at a disadvantage.
The Trinamool Congress and the CPI were the two recognised national parties to attend the consultation. Both vociferously opposed the concept simultaneous polls, sources said. NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal supported the concept of simultaneous polls, saying it would reduce expenditure of parties and shorten the period of the model code of conduct which hampers development work, the sources in the law panel present at the deliberations said.
The SAD was represented by its Rajya Sabha (RS) member Naresh Gujral, who raised the issue of impact on RS polls in case the term of an assembly is extended to ensure that its elections are held along with that of Lok Sabha. “This is an important issue which has to be kept in mind,” said a law panel functionary.
The AIADMK, represented by Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai, said holding the two polls together is “desirable” but certain “practical” and “serious” issues need to be settled first. The AIADMK, which rules Tamil Nadu, was of the view that if necessary, simultaneous elections should be held in 2024 and not before that. Sources said the party was also of the view that the TN assembly should be allowed to complete its term and the Lok Sabha elections should be held as per schedule.
The Trinamool Congress was represented by Kalyan Bandhopadhyay, its Lok Sabha member, at the meeting. His party opposed the concept saying regional issues would be overshadowed by national issues, and national parties with their “money power” would steal a march over smaller players. The CPI, AIDUF and Goa Forward Party also expressed similar views.
The IUML presented its views on electoral reforms. “But we told them that the issue at hand was simultaneous polls,” said a law panel functionary. The BJP, which has voiced its support to the proposal, has sought more time from the Commission to present its views on the issue. It has been told to do so by July 31 as the term of the present panel ends in August end, the sources said.
The Congress, meanwhile, said it will consult other opposition parties on the issue before deciding its course of action. The CPI(M) had last week told the Law Commission that holding Lok Sabha and Assembly polls together is inherently “anti-democratic” and negates the principles of federalism which is a fundamental feature of Constitution.
The panel had on June 14 written to all recognised political parties seeking their views on the issue. In a reply to the commission, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury listed the party’s objections to the proposal stating that it goes beyond the ambit of law reform entailing major amendments to Constitution, and would run against both the “letter and spirit of our Constitution”.
“The aspects of our Constitution, we believe, cannot be undermined, or tweaked. We believe that such a proposal is inherently anti-democratic and negates the principles of federalism which is a fundamental feature of our Constitution,” he wrote. Yechury had thanked the panel for inviting his party to the consultation, but said that it “may not be necessary” that they would attend.
Seeking to give shape to the government’s concept of “one nation, one election”, the Law Commission’s internal working paper has recommended holding the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls simultaneously but in two phases beginning 2019. The second phase of simultaneous polls can take place in 2024, the document states. The document has proposed amending the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act to shorten or extend the terms of state legislative assemblies to effect the move.
The states, which are recommended to be covered under phase-I, are where Assembly polls are due by 2021. States which will come under phase-II are Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Delhi and Punjab. To hold elections in these states along with Lok Sabha polls, the terms of the Assemblies have to be extended.
Based on a suggestion made by the Election Commission, the working paper says that a no-confidence motion against the government should be followed by a confidence motion. This would ensure that if the opposition does not have the numbers to form an alternative government, the regime in office cannot be removed.