PM Narendra Modi announces panel to study joint polls
Major opposition parties stay away, 21 parties send representatives
Heads of 21 political parties attended the ‘one country, one election’ meeting called by the government but 12 major opposition parties kept away. Congress president Rahul Gandhi cited prior engagements. BSP chief Mayawati said she would have attended if the discussion on EVMs was on the agenda. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Telugu Desam Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), the Indian Union Muslim League and the All India United Democratic Front also did not attend the meeting. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam sent Tamil Nadu law minister CV Shanmughan but he was informed that only party heads could attend. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray did not attend as he was busy with foundation day celebrations of his party.
Among those who attended, Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik supported simultaneous polls, while YSRCP chief Jaganmohan Reddy wanted his concerns to be addressed before implementing the idea. The NCP questioned the feasibility of the idea and possibility of frequent central rule in states. CPM and CPI leaders disagreed with the proposal. Opposition parties said simultaneous elections may lead to ‘encroachment’ on federal rights, as dissolving assemblies before end of tenure was ‘anti-democratic’ and imposition of President’s rule to sync polls was unfair.
“Several parties were of the view that all aspects of the proposal need to be examined carefully. Shri Modi noted that this is not the agenda of one party, but an issue of national importance and views of all parties would be considered and given due importance,” a government source said. Modi announced that a committee will be formed soon to examine the issue and submit a report.
Patnaik echoed the views of Modi and said that frequent elections would affect the pace of development and rock the spirit of cooperative federalism. “BJD will fully support the idea of one nation, one election. There has to be a ‘give and take’ attitude in the larger interest of the country,” Patnaik said at the meeting. Incidentally, Patnaik had dissolved the Odisha assembly almost a year ahead of schedule in 2004 to sync state elections with the Lok Sabha polls. The state has since then had simultaneously polls. Patnaik also suggested that the commitment to “Ahimsa (non-violence) be enshrined in the Constitution’s preamble.”
There was agreement among all parties on celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary and improving productivity of Parliament, the other issues on the agenda. Some opposition heads maintained that while discussing development of the 115 backward districts, concerned state governments must be involved for effective results. The PM endorsed the view and said all state governments must coordinate with the Centre to bring the most backward districts on level with the best.