Simultaneous polls likely in 2024, says Maharashtra BJP minister

Mumbai: Speculation is rife that polls to the Lok Sabha, state assembly, local bodies, including municipal corporations and councils and zilla parishads will probably be held simultaneously after 2024, if there is consensus among all political parties. However, Sudhir Mungantiwar, finance minister and the chairman of the committee which will suggest to the Centre the feasibility of conducting simultaneous polls, has ruled this out for 2019.

However, he said, “Simultaneous polls for 2019 could happen if Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray decide so.” D K Shankaran, chief election commissioner, is the member of the two-member committee headed by Mungantiwar. According to the minister, it is an opportunity for him to study elections procedures of 193 countries from across the globe. He can simply recommend suggestions in one line or he can carry out an in-depth study of the recognised political and democratic systems across the globe, to conduct simultaneous polls. He said he has an opportunity to recommend amendment in rules and acts, to ensure polls will be conducted in a fair atmosphere and within a budget.

“Suppose, a sitting legislator dies before completing his tenure. Then, his party would have the option to either recommend the name of a professional to replace him or the election commission can select the runner-up candidate from the same constituency. These are possibilities, the committee can recommend others also,” said Mungantiwar.

On Wednesday, Mungantiwar said, “First of all, the central government has no plan to conduct simultaneous elections in 2019. The committee formed to examine this issue will have to give its recommendations for the 2024 polls.” “The committee will consider three major factors. We spend huge amounts of money, time and expend manpower while conducting polls. We have noticed, that at any given time, there is an election code of conduct in operation in some part of the state.

As a result, we lose 311 days of 365 days, as development works is stalled when the code of conduct is on,” said the minister. He added that his finance department had allocated Rs 36 crore for the bypolls in the recent Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha polls. “Simultaneous polls will not only save the state exchequer money, it will free up more days for development work,” he said.

If the union government decides to hold simultaneous polls, it will have to dissolve some state assemblies before their tenure. In such a situation, some states may oppose the decision. Clarifying this, Mungantiwar said, “The Bharatiya Janata Party is in power in more than 90 percent states. After the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, we will be in majority in the Rajya Sabha also. Then, we can impose our decision.”

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