Updated: August 14, 2018 4:32:53 pm
BJP president Amit Shah has told the Law Commission that holding simultaneous polls is not only a concept but a principle that has been successfully tried in the past and can be implemented.
Countering the Opposition Congress’s stand that holding simultaneous polls was against the federal structure of the country as a “baseless” argument, Shah said it would “strengthen the federal structure”.
According to him, the Opposition’s objections were “politically motivated and inappropriate”.
In his eight-page letter to commission chairman Justice B S Chouhan, Shah argued that one election would check expenditure and ensure that the nation is not in “election mode” throughout the year.
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Shah also tried to allay apprehensions of some parties that national parties could get preference if the elections are held together. He pointed out that in 1980, when Karnataka went to polls along with Parliamentary elections, the Congress won the national election while JD-S was elected for the state.
Shah also said in 2016, Maharashtra had the model code of conduct in place for 307 days — in different areas — due to elections to Parliament, Assembly or local bodies.
Shah’s letter came on the day a BJP delegation of Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, party leaders Vinay Sahasrabudhe, Bhupender Yadav and Anil Baluni met Justice Chouhan on the issue of simultaneous polls.
In parallel, there is buzz within the BJP as it discusses the possibility of holding 12 state elections together in early 2019.
A party source said that several hypotheses are being debated and discussed. One possibility, he said, is that elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram could be postponed and President’s rule imposed in these states as the term of these assemblies ends in November-December.
This plan, party sources said, envisages the resignation of the four Chief Ministers once the term of their respective assemblies ends. This could clear the way for President’s rule and elections can then be held along with general elections in early 2019.
Once the five-year term of the assembly ends, election to the new assembly can be held within six months.
States like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha vote with the Lok Sabha polls anyway. Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Jharkhand — all NDA-ruled — can also be advanced so that they are held along with Lok Sabha polls, sources said.
The thinking within the party is that “new challenges require new solutions and laws.”
Party leaders pointed out that with this option, at least on paper, as many as a dozen states can go to polls simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls without changing any law. “The BJP Chief Ministers will honour the Constitution by resigning before their term ends. In fact, the party will get credit for such a move in the elections also,” the source added.
The idea of simultaneous elections had been mooted by the Election Commission itself in 1983 and the Law Commission Commission, headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy, said in its 170th Report in May 1999 that “we must go back to the situation where the elections to Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies are held at once”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi revived the discourse over it after he took over in 2014 and has often promoted the concept of One Nation One Election.
During a recent meeting with the Law Commission, the Congress party said that the proposal of holding Lok Sabha and Assembly elections together is “unconstitutional and impractical”.
Calling it “Constitutional perversity” and “preposterous”, the Congress said that the proposal, if accepted, would hit the very core of democracy.
While Shiromani Akali Dal, Biju Janata Dal, AIADMK, Samajwadi Party, TRS and YSRCP have backed the proposal, Goa Forward Party, TMC, AAP, DMK, TDP, CPI-M, CPI, JD-S and Forward Bloc have opposed the idea.
The Election Commission has supported the idea but has suggested an alternative to the Prime Minister’s proposal as One Year, One Election. On May 24, The Indian Express reported that the EC had floated the idea in its response to a letter from the Law Commission on April 24 in which the latter had sought the EC’s views on aligning all state elections with the Lok Sabha polls.
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