The government is believed to be examining the possibility of having the Lok Sabha elections in February 2009, almost three months before its term comes to a close.
But before the government makes up its mind, it will need the consent of UPA allies on it. “We have not spoken to them so far… But we don’t think they will object,” said a Union minister of the Congress. As school examinations are slotted for March, the government would have to consider holding polls either in February or in April, the minister added. School buildings and teachers have crucial roles in the poll exercise in India. The buildings are used as polling booths and teachers are deployed on election duty.
Until now, the Congress as well as its alliance partners maintained parliamentary polls would be held around April so the new Lok Sabha is constituted before the term of the present House expires in May third week. While this scenario is not being ruled out altogether, increasingly party leaders have in private begun to talk of February polls.
Besides the reaction of allies, much would also depend on two other factors. The first is the party’s performance in the forthcoming assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi, J&K and Mizoram. Failure may deter the government from going in for early polls. The second would be the Congress’s assessment of issues like price rise and the meltdown effect on the Indian economy, amid fears that the next few months may also see job cuts.
“There are two views in the party. One section feels things may worsen over the weeks, so the sooner elections are held the better. The other section, particularly some who are part of the party’s think tank, believe it should be held closer to May so that we have time to get on top of the situation,’’ said a source. The source said that until a few weeks ago Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself had favoured early polls.
For February polls, the Election Commission would have to come out with the dates around six weeks before that. Where does this leave the Budget session or a vote on accounts to enable the government to fund and run the administration? If polls are held in February, the new government would have enough time to go in for a vote on accounts in March and then have a Budget session.
But in case of April polls, the government would have to call a session in February to have a vote on accounts.