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Centre Sets up Committee to Study 'One Nation, One Election' Issue, PM Says Most Parties Support Proposal

File photo of PM Narendra Modi with Rajnath Singh and JP Nadda in New Delhi. (Twitter/Narendra Modi)

File photo of PM Narendra Modi with Rajnath Singh and JP Nadda in New Delhi. (Twitter/Narendra Modi)

The Congress and Left parties expressed opposition to the proposal, saying it would go against the spirit of federalism.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will set up a committee that will give suggestions on issues related to 'One Nation, One Election' proposal, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh after an all-party meeting to discuss simultaneous polls on Wednesday.

Most parties that attended the meeting extended support to the proposal of simultaneous polls, Singh said. "We had invited 40 political parties out of which presidents of 21 parties participated; three other parties sent their opinion on the subjects in writing," Singh added.

Several party presidents supported the proposal for simultaneous conduct of elections, said the Centre. "Several parties were also of the view that all aspects of this proposal need to be examined carefully. PM Modi noted that this is not a single party’s agenda, but it is an issue of national importance and the views of all parties would be considered and given due importance. He announced that a committee will be formed to go examine the issue of ‘One Country, One Election’ threadbare, and come up with suggestions in a time-bound manner," it said.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India expressed their disagreement over the proposal, said Singh. “They had a difference of opinion, but they did not oppose the idea. They just opposed the implementation of it,” the minister said after the meeting.

The other issues discussed at the meeting included ways to improve the Parliament's productivity, building a new country in its 75th year of Independence, programme and commitments to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, and the development of aspirational districts, said a statement from the Press Information Bureau.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik extended full support to the idea of 'one nation, one election', saying that frequent polls affect the pace of development and also "rock the spirit of cooperative federalism".

"Frequent elections affect the pace of development and also rock the spirit of cooperative federalism. The BJD will fully support the idea of 'one nation, one election'," Patnaik said, adding there has to be a "give and take" attitude in the larger interest of the country.

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president also called for a re-look into the Land Acquisition Act and the Forest Conservation Act.

Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora called for a debate on the issue of holding simultaneous polls. Being in continuous election mode is a roadblock to good governance and distracts politicians from addressing real issues, he said.

Terming 'one nation, one election' an "important and valuable reform", Deora said the government should decide on it by taking all political parties on board and seeking opinions of the intelligentsia, organisations working for electoral reforms, and students.

Several opposition parties skip meet

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati, Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal and Telangana Rashtra Samithi's K Chandrashekar Rao were among the top leaders who stayed away from the meeting. While the AAP was represented by Raghav Chadha, KCR deputed his son KT Rama Rao.

Banerjee on Tuesday had turned down the invitation, saying that the Centre should prepare a white paper on the 'one nation, one election' issue for consultations. Mayawati tweeted saying she would have attended the meeting if it was on the subject of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Sources said NDA's ally Shiv Sena did not attend the meeting as it was the party's foundation day.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who was invited to the meeting, wrote back to the government expressing his inability to attend. He also wrote a note to the government, the contents of which were not known.

The Congress took the decision of staying away from the meeting after consultations with other parties on the issue. The party had convened a meeting of all opposition leaders on Wednesday morning to discuss the issue but it was cancelled in view of Gandhi's birthday.

Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi later slammed the BJP over the issue, claiming it is an attempt at "diverting the people's attention" from real issues. He said a party that cannot hold simultaneous assembly polls to two states or for two Rajya Sabha seats has no right to talk about holding all elections together.

The Left parties, represented by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI's D Raja, vehemently opposed the idea, saying it is against the spirit of federalism. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also opposed the idea for being against the federal structure.

The 'one nation, one election' proposal is fundamentally anti-federal and a "backdoor way of replacing our parliamentary democracy", Yechury said.

Asked why the Congress did not attend the meeting, Gogoi said, "We have explained that the Congress president expressed regret regarding 'one nation, one election' meeting. We have said, our legal experts, our constitutional experts have also said that this is perversion of the Constitution; the framer of our Constitution envisioned flexibility and envisioned federalism. So this brings in a sense of rigidity, this brings us constitutional change. There has not been enough study into it and the party which is proposing the idea itself is being inconsistent."

(With inputs from agencies)

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