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Brace for early elections

india Updated: Oct 25, 2008 01:17 IST
Saroj Nagi

The parliament session that will meet again from December 10 for about two weeks is likely to be the last for the 14th Lok Sabha, a well-placed government source told the Hindustan Times on Friday. This would be followed by general elections in February 2009, he added.

This was confirmed by sources in the ruling Congress party.

The Hindustan Times had reported on Wednesday that the government was exploring the possibility of holding general elections in February, almost three months before the term of the Manmohan Singh government ends.

But the government will take its time deciding when to dissolve the House. G.C. Malhotra, former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, said: “If it wants, it can dissolve the House before going for polls. But it is not necessary for it to do so. Even after the elections, the House can stay alive till the end of its term.”

The House stands dissolved automatically after the end of its term of five years. But it can be dissolved early through a presidential order.

The government wants to keep the House alive for two reasons, said sources. One, to enable MPs to continue drawing their salary and, two, it can quickly reconvene for a vote on accounts (temporary budget to keep the government in business) in
case elections are held in April and not in February.

Many people in the ruling party want February polls. But others want the elections later, in April-May, hoping to get some more time to tide over the ongoing economic crisis.

The Congress has yet to run this past its coalition allies, who may not buy early elections. But a minister said, “I don’t think they’ll object.”

The PM is reportedly rooting for early polls as he fears the economic crisis would worsen.

“He is so worried,” said a source, adding, “that he has told all ministries not to launch any social programme with a high price tag.”

According to Left leaders, who smelt early polls, the only two sops -- if they can be called so -- the government may consider are cuts in the prices of oil and foodgrain.

The first sign that the December session could be the last came when the government approached the Left leaders for their agreement on wrapping up the October session before the festivals and assembly elections in November. The Bharatiya Janata Party had already given its assent.

The Left looked in no mood to comply easily though. It set two conditions reportedly. One, don’t dissolve the House and, two, call the regulation Winter Session in December.

The government chose the middle path. The House will meet in December, but it won’t be called the Winter Session. It would be part three of a special session that was held in July (21 and 22) for the trust vote.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi dismissed opposition charges that the government was continuing with the session that had started in July as it was afraid of facing a no-confidence motion.