One nation, one poll a doubtful starter for 2019
Was the two-day all party meeting of the Law Commission on the “one nation, one poll” issue a red herring? This question assumes importance as any exercise on simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies has to be conducted by the Election Commission. Any move to hold simultaneous elections would entail several changes in the Constitution of India. The changes would relate to the duration of Houses of Parliament and State Assemblies, their dissolution and imposition of President’s rule in the State. There is also the issue of financial expenditure that would be required to be factored in for the poll panel to be ready for such an exercise
The recommendation of the Law Commission, whenever submitted, would be an academic exercise in the last year of the current government’s tenure. The last session of Parliament was a washout and the Budget passed without discussion through a voice vote.
With the elections to regional assemblies of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram elections at the end of the year, the chances of any major legislative business being conducted in the forthcoming Monsoon remains bleak. Political posturing to catch maximum attention will make normal parliamentary give and take almost impossible. Lok Sabha general elections are due in early 2019 and any exercise at consensus building for one nation, one poll will have to wait another day.
The timing of general election in the last year is always the prerogative of the ruling party. It is generally used as a weapon of surprise to stun the opposition and take fast mover advantage.
Would Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a wily practitioner of statecraft, ever let his rivals have an inkling of poll schedule? He may be distracting the opposition by raising the issue through the Law Commission.
Both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the principal opposition, the Congress party, kept away from the deliberations of the Law Commission. The various parties which made representation to the law panel did on predictable lines.
Dravida Munnetram Kazhgam, Aam Admi Party, Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India and Janata Dal (Secular) opposed the idea of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the regional assemblies. Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Telangana Rashtra Samiti and Janata Dal (U) supported the move.
The JD (S) stand was understandable as it has formed government barely month ago in Karnataka after alliance with the Congress after a bruising election battle. Orissa, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh assembly elections coincide with the Lok Sabha general elections. Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand Assembly elections are scheduled for second half of 2019.
India had four simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies between 1952 and 1967. The decline of the Congress party in 1967 resulted in several non-Congress groups forming short lived coalition governments in North Indian States. Indira Gandhi’s decision to call for mid-term general elections in 1971 after bank nationalisation and abolition of privy purses along with instability in the States put an end to simultaneous elections.
Turning the clock back may call for deft political management.