Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday said a committee will be formed to examine threadbare the issue of ‘One Country, One Election’, and come up with suggestions in a time-bound manner.
The issue of simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and state assemblies was one of five items discussed at an all-party meeting Wednesday. It was attended by presidents and chiefs of 21 of 40 parties invited to the meeting. Three parties, TDP, AAP and AIADMK, sent their comments through letters while NDA partner Shiv Sena did not attend
because it was busy with its Foundation Day Wednesday.
Those who boycotted the meeting included Congress president Rahul Gandhi, TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, BSP chief Mayawati, SP president Akhilesh Yadav and DMK president M K Stalin.
After the meeting, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said: “All the parties present supported the idea. CPM and CPI opposed it only on the question of how it can be done. No one has opposed the idea itself. We take differences of opinion also very seriously and value such comments. The PM has decided to form a committee and that committee will take into consideration all these things.”
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He said the Prime Minister, in his opening remarks at meeting, described the agenda items as “not the government’s agenda” but the “nation’s agenda”. The other items on the agenda were: Ways to Improve productivity of Parliament; building a New India in the 75th year of Independence; programme and commitments to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary; and, development of aspirational districts.
In a tweet later, Modi said: “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.”
Skipping the meeting, the TMC demanded that the government bring out a ‘White Paper’ on ‘One Country, One Election’ so that parties can get it evaluated from experts.
The CPM opposed the idea of simultaneous polls in the present form, calling it “Presidential rule through the backdoor”.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury told reporters: “Any suppression of the will of the people by either shortening or prolonging the terms of Parliament or Assembly is anti democratic and anti federalism… Elections to the state Assemblies got detached from the general elections due to the arbitrary misuse of Article 356 by the central government. This process began with the dismissal of the Communist ministry in Kerala in 1959. How can there be simultaneous elections when there is Article 356?”.
BJD’s Naveen Patnaik, who supported the government’s idea, suggested that the words “peace” and “non-violence” be included in the preamble of the Constitution.
In a letter to the meeting conveying his party’s views, AAP leader Raghav Chadha called the “concept of compelled simultaneous elections… anathema to the democratic spirit of the Constitution” and “inconsistent with basic tenets of parliamentary democracy”.
TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu, in his letter, called for wider consultations on the subject. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, who attended the meeting, said India is defined by its diversity in culture, linguistics, eating and living habits and “therefore politically also, this diversity should be allowed to thrive”.
Also present were Bihar Chief Minister and JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar, Sharad Pawar of NCP, Farooq Abdullah of National Conference, Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM, K T Rama Rao of TRS, S Sudhakar Reddy of CPI, Sukhbir Singh Badal of SAD and Conrad Sangma of National People’s Party.