Prime Minister Narendra Modi and yet another panel on ‘One Nation, One Election’

New Delhi: Prime Minister Modi’s bid to push his idea of "one nation, one election" did not materialise on Wednesday when all major parties boycotted the meeting, forcing him to end up with an announcement to set up a committee to examine it. The committee is not yet constituted but it will be the fourth in the series in as many years on the subject. The Prime Minister is pushing the simultaneous polls because that was promised by the ruling BJP in its manifesto and he has to carry it forward. The government already has detailed reports on the subject from three committees, the first being the parliamentary standing committee on personnel, law and justice. The committee decided in January 2015 to study the feasibility of holding the simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state legislature assemblies and submitted its report by the year end.

Conceding that the simultaneous elections at one go were not possible in one go, the committee proposed a 2-phased approach. It suggested half the states to hold polls with the Lok Sabha and other half around the middle of the Lok Sabha’s term. It would require extending the term in the second phase and curtailing the life of the Assemblies in the first round. Yet another report came out in 2016 from the NITI Aayog which seconded the parliamentary panel’s report and it was also mentioned in a report by the Law Commission in 2018.

The panel of the NITI Aayog stressed that the simultaneous polls were not feasible within the existing framework of the Constitution. Its report proposed another scenario in which the life of the Assemblies of Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Delhi due for polls within a year could be curtailed to hold them along with the 17th Lok Sabha elections and the tenure of the Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Mizoram, Karnataka and Gujarat be extended to have the elections only with the 18th Lok Sabha.

In fact, the idea of the simultaneous elections was floated for the first time back in 1999 by the Law Commission in its report, but it was put in the cold storage because the political class was divided.

The Opposition’s stand is that the simultaneous polls are not possible unless the Constitution is amended to tackle the Centre’s powers for dissolution of the assemblies. Prime Minister Modi doesn’t differ. In fact, he told the meeting of the heads of the political parties who turned up on Wednesday that the idea cannot be implemented unless there is a consensus among the parties to amend the Constitution. The regional parties fear that their existence itself will be at stake if there are simultaneous elections giving advantage to the national parties involved in the Lok Sabha elections also capturing the state assemblies.

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