Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Wednesday meet leaders of political parties to discuss several matters, including the idea of holding simultaneous national and state elections.
Though the prime minister had sought a meeting with party chiefs, some Opposition parties are likely to send other representatives. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin have refused to attend the meeting. The Congress will also skip the meeting as it is opposed to the idea of simultaneous elections, unidentified leaders told PTI.
The heads of all parties that have a member in either House of Parliament were invited for the meeting. Modi had called for the discussions during an all-party meeting on Sunday ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament. The Monsoon Session – the first time the newly elected Lok Sabha is meeting – began on Monday.
The agenda of the meeting includes the celebration of 75 years of Independence in 2022 and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year.
United Progressive Alliance leaders met in Parliament on Tuesday evening to discuss the matter and decided they will meet other parties before deciding whether to go for the meeting. Unidentified leaders told PTI that Opposition parties are weary of the meeting as they feel this may be a “trap” set by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and needs a proper discussion first.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi will be represented by working president KT Rama Rao instead of party chief K Chandrasekhar Rao. The Telugu Desam Party is expected to be represented by Jayadev Galla, and the Aam Aadmi Party by Raghav Chadha, ANI reported. Communist Party of India General Secretary S Sudhakar Reddy is likely to represent his party at the meeting.
In a letter to the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, Mamata Banerjee had said that the subject of simultaneous elections requires consultations with experts. “Instead of doing the matter hurriedly, I would request you to kindly circulate a white paper on the subject to all political parties inviting their views by providing adequate time,” PTI reported, quoting her letter. “If you only do so, we will be able to give concrete suggestions on this important subject.”
Banerjee, however, committed to participating in the celebration of 75 years of Independence in 2022 and 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year. The Trinamool Congress chief had also skipped the NITI Aayog meeting on June 15.
Mayawati, meanwhile, tweeted that she would have attended the meeting if it was about electronic voting machines. She said the idea of simultaneous polls was a ploy to divert attention from issues like poverty, unemployment and inflation. “Elections cannot be an issue in any democratic country, nor is it appropriate to talk about elections from the perspective of expenditure,” she said.
“The stubbornness of conducting elections through electronic voting machines instead of ballot paper is the real threat to the democracy and Constitution of the country,” Mayawati said.
Modi has also called a meeting of all Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs on Thursday.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said holding simultaneous polls is fundamentally anti-federal and anti-democratic, and against the Constitution, PTI reported.
“Apart from the technical issues involved in holding simultaneous elections to Parliament and state Assemblies, our opposition to this is based on the fact that it is fundamentally anti-federal, anti-democratic and strikes at the roots of the parliamentary democratic system, as ordained in the Constitution,” party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in a note circulated to political parties.
Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party have often supported the idea of simultaneous elections as a way to save costs and focus on development work. The country had national and state elections for several years after Independence, but they later fell out of sync for several reasons such as governments collapsing mid-term. As a result, each year now sees some states going for elections.
Last year, the Law Commission suggested to the Centre that certain inevitable constitutional amendments are required if it wants to hold simultaneous elections to Parliament and the state Assemblies.
The Congress had earlier said the proposal was against federalism, and said it is “unconstitutional, undemocratic and forbidden by law”. The party had also described the proposal as a “constitutional perversity”. The BJP has claimed that the opposition to the idea of simultaneous national and state elections is “politically motivated and inappropriate”.