Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “One Nation, One Election” proposal is “worthy of a debate”, even as the Congress skipped the all-party meeting Modi had convened to discuss the matter on the same day.
“I believe that being in a continuous election mode is a roadblock to good governance, distracts politicians from addressing real issues,” Deora said on Twitter. “And adds populism to the character of governance which is not necessarily a long-term solution to some of the gravest problems Indians face.” However, Deora made it clear that these were his personal views on the matter.
Last year, the Congress had claimed the proposal was against federalism, and that 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”.
“The skepticism of political parties should not be ridiculed, instead, the government must continue to attempt to build consensus,” Deora said. “It must also refrain from seeking to implement such an important and valuable reform without taking all parties on board.”
Ahead of the meeting, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had also said in a letter to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi that the subject of simultaneous elections required consultations with experts. Banerjee, who also skipped Wednesday’s meeting, said that parties had been given too little time to respond.
Deora agreed with leaders like Banerjee and said: “This is not an ordinary reform as it will have a long-lasting impact on politics and governance. The government should also invite Indian intelligentsia, academics, organisations working on electoral reforms and students to collectively provide their perspectives on this issue.”
He added: “In the last few years, we have seen partisan politics dictating matters that critically impact our democracy...In India, bold ideas rarely get bipartisan support.”
Deora expressed his confidence in the Opposition to show pragmatism, objectivity and far-sightedness when dealing with the matter. He said it was unfortunate that India’s political class is “fast forgetting the art of debate, discussion and engagement”, and this is “a grave threat to India’s democratic nature”.
Deora also said that he is yet to come across evidence that simultaneous polls will help the party that is in power nationally. “Only recently, along with the Lok Sabha elections, the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh elected members to their respective Vidhan Sabhas,” Deora said in his statement. “Two out of the three states elected parties that are not even in an alliance with the BJP.”
“India’s 70-year electoral journey has taught us that the Indian voter is aware, informed and can differentiate between state and central elections,” Deora asserted. “Our democracy is neither fragile nor immature and the debate of one nation, one poll calls for an open mind on either side of the spectrum,” he said in conclusion.
Deora had taken over from Sanjay Nirupam as the Mumbai Congress chief in March.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin had also boycotted Modi’s meeting. A few political parties had sent representatives.
The meeting was attended by leaders such as Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United), Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Sukhbir Singh Badal of the Akali Dal, Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal, Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party and Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party.
After the meeting, Union minister Rajnath Singh had said most political parties supported the idea of “One Nation, One Election”. Modi had said at the meeting that a committee would be set up to provide “time-bound suggestions” on the proposal.