New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) OP Rawat stirred the hornet’s nest earlier this week when he said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) was prepared to hold simultaneous elections for state assemblies and the Lok Sabha. The issue, raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after taking charge, has sharply divided his political allies and adversaries alike. News 18 looks at who stands where on this polarising issue.
For simultaneous polls
BJP: The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is in power in 18 states across the country and in 13 of these, the Chief Minister belongs to the BJP. All 18 CMs have the power to dissolve the assembly if they so wish. The Prime Minister in November last year had urged a discussion on the possibility of simultaneous polls. "Such issues should be discussed to seek public opinion ... it could go either way, may be people will support or oppose it but there should be discussion which media needs to initiate," Modi had said.
TDP: The Telegu Desam Party is a BJP ally and is in power with the BJP in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The state is headed to polls in 2019 and if the Lok Sabha polls are advanced to 2018, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu will have to dissolve the assembly a year in advance. The TDP has supported the PM’s idea of holding simultaneous elections.
JD (U): The Janata Dal (United), after a brief stint in alliance with the RJD, has come back to the NDA fold. Bihar is not due to go to polls before 2020 but the ruling party in the state has backed the idea of simultaneous polls. However, JD (U) has added a rider saying that the Prime Minister must first call an all-party meet and discuss a constitutional amendment to Article 356, which allows for President’s rule in a state.
Against simultaneous polls
Left parties: Both the CPI and the CPI (M) have opposed the move to hold simultaneous elections, calling the move “unrealistic”. CPI leader D Raja said, "Simultaneous polls are not feasible as the central government cannot force all state governments to go for polls during Lok Sabha elections". Raja went as far as to say that the ECI was “toeing the BJP’s line”. Senior CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat, too, criticized the idea and said it was a “political issue” that cannot be decided by an individual. The Left is in power in the states of Tripura and Kerala, where CPI (M)’s Manik Sarkar and Pinarayi Vijayan are the Chief Ministers. While Kerala is not due for polls till 2021, Tripura is scheduled to have assembly polls in 2018.
TRS: The Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the ruling party in the newly formed state of Telangana, on Friday openly criticized the idea of ‘One Nation, One Poll’. Telangana Rashtra Samitis (TRS) floor leader in the Lower House, A P Jithender Reddy, said people elect a government for a term of five years, and this mandate should be allowed to be completed. "We are always ready (for elections) but what I think is when the mandate is given for five years, we (states) should complete the mandated period," Reddy told PTI.
RJD: Lalu Prasad Yadav, the RJD Chief, had made his stand on the government’s ‘One Nation, One Poll’ idea clear back in May. When he was still a part of the Bihar ruling alliance, Yadav had said, NITI Ayog’s suggestion to hold simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls is a conspiracy to finish regional parties. We will oppose any such move.”
DMK: The DMK, the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu, has also opposed the idea. DMK leader T Siva told an English daily, “As long as Article 356 is there, you cannot hold simultaneous elections. The ninth Lok Sabha ran for one-and-a-half years, the 11th for 18 months and the 12th for 13 months. You can’t guarantee that the Lok Sabha will run for five years... Could the governments in States which went to the polls last year or this year be dissolved? They have been given a five-year mandate. This is an anti-democratic move.”
Congress: While the Indian National Congress (INC) has dared PM Modi to go for early polls, so that the people could give a “befitting reply” to his election “jumlas”, it has not cleared its stand on where it stands on the issue of simultaneous polls. When asked about the idea, Congress gave a cryptic reply to saying the EC had a constitutional obligation to conduct “free and fair” elections and be ready to conduct election with “appropriate notice” from the government.