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Political parties ignore law panel’s request for views on simultaneous Lok Sabha, state elections

Political parties, including the BJP, which proposed the idea, did not respond to the Law Commission’s request for suggestions on holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and state elections

india Updated: May 29, 2018 00:09 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times, Delhi
simultaneous polls,Law Commission,Lok Sabha elections
An election officer closes an electronic voting machine at the end of polls at a polling station in Bangalore on May 12, 2018. (AP Photo)

No major political party has responded to the Law Commission’s call for views on holding simultaneous national and state elections, two top commission officials involved in the exercise said on Monday.

On April 17, in a working paper titled “Simultaneous Elections – constitutional and legal perspectives”, the panel listed a series of sweeping legal and constitutional changes needed for holding simultaneous polls. The country’s top legal advisory panel appealed to stakeholders, including political parties, to give their comments on the subject by May 8. The discussion paper was also submitted to the law ministry.

“No national or regional party has sent in any suggestions or comments in response to the call for participation in the exercise. We will soon begin inviting them for talks,” one of the officials cited above said.

The BJP, which proposed the idea, also did not respond to the panel. Party leaders said its views are already well known and have been expressed at different platforms.

“The BJP has articulated its views in favour of simultaneous polls and encouraged debate on this issue…Though many parties are for simultaneous elections, they fear the PM is immensely popular and the BJP will benefit from it,” party MP GVL Narasimha Rao said. He added that contrary to fears, simultaneous elections will provide a level playing field to parties while reducing election expenditure.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi revived the debate on holding simultaneous polls soon after coming to power in May 2014. The government wrote to the Election Commision of India in 2015 seeking its views on the subject. President Ram Nath Kovind backed the idea in his joint address to both houses of Parliament to mark the start of the budget session this year.

“Puducherry chief minister V Narayanasamy is the only chief minister who has written to the law panel. He opposed the idea, calling it ‘unconstitutional and against the federal structure’”, an official said.

The two officials were also present at a meeting on the issue between the law panel and representatives of the Election Commission on May 16 . The Election Commission listed the logistical requirements, including nearly doubling the number of Electronic Voting Machines it currently possesses.

The officials said that the panel wanted to make the exercise “as broad-based as possible” and that it had chosen to hold consultations with stakeholders and experts rather than merely submit a report to the government based on a legal examination of the issue.

The changes listed in the draft paper include: amending the Constitution by a special majority in Parliament and ratification by more than half of the states; amending the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and doing away with anti-defection law and parts of Schedule X of the Constitution that lays down the rules of disqualification of legislators, in case of a hung House. The anti-defection law does not allow party legislators to vote against the party whip.

The recommendations also speak of scrapping the “no-confidence motion” in the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies with a “constructive vote of no confidence” (allowing a House to withdraw confidence from a head of the government only if there is a motion of confidence in a successor).

In the event of a midterm poll, the new House should only be constituted for the remainder of the term, the commission’s draft paper suggested.

First Published: May 28, 2018 18:19 IST