As the BJP got down in earnest to push for simultaneous polls, with party chief Amit Shah writing to Law Commission in favour of the move and the BJP thinking of having elections to 12 States along with Lok Sabha election next year, the Election Commission turned around and said ‘not possible’.
Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said on Tuesday, August 14, that parallel elections are not possible without a legal framework. He insisted that any extension or curtailment of the term of assemblies will require a constitutional amendment.
“If the term of some state assemblies needs to be curtailed or extended, then a constitutional amendment will be required… Logistics arrangements with regard to 100 percent availability of VVPATs (paper trail machines) will be a constraint,” Rawat told reporters to a question on whether simultaneous elections can be held anytime soon.
“On the issue of ‘one nation one poll’, the Election Commission had given inputs and suggestions in 2015 itself… Other requirements of additional police force, polling personnel would also be needed,” he said.
Rawat’s remarks came a day after the BJP made a strong pitch for simultaneous polls, with party chief Amit Shah arguing that one election would check expenditure and ensure that the nation is not in “election mode” throughout the year.
In an eight-page letter to Law Commission chairman Justice BS Chouhan, Shah said holding simultaneous polls is not only a concept but a principle that has been successfully tried in the past and can be implemented.
The BJP chief said the opposition to simultaneous elections seems to be politically motivated. Opposition parties have raised concern over the proposal, saying simultaneous elections would dilute India’s federal structure.
The CEC said the poll panel would continue to deliver its responsibility of conducting elections whenever term of the state assemblies come to an end.
The EC is still in the process of procuring new EVMs and VVPATs ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. While all required EVMs — 13.95 lakh ballot units and 9.3 lakh control units — will be delivered by September 30, 16.15 lakh VVPATs will also be delivered well before the end of November, Rawat had earlier said.
Some additional VVPATs are being procured as a cushion in case these machines malfunction and need to be replaced during polls.
Over 11 per cent of the 10,300 VVPAT machines across 10 states had developed faults and had to be replaced during the May 28 bypolls.
If simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies are held in 2019, the EC will require nearly 24 lakh EVMs, double the number required to hold only the Parliamentary polls.
A paper by the Law Commission had recently recommended holding the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in two phases beginning 2019.
Congress dares PM Modi to dissolve Lok Sabha, hold general elections with state polls this year
Meanwhile, even as Modi government was contemplating holding an all-party meet on the issue after the Law Commission recommends a legal framework on the matter, the Congress dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to dissolve the Lok Sabha early and announce general elections along with polls in four states where the terms of the assemblies end this year.
Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot today said postponing the upcoming state assembly elections and conducting these with Lok Sabha polls in 2019 is “not possible” under the Constitution or the law.
He said elections in Mizoram, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh will have to be conducted before the terms of these assemblies end. “There is only one way of holding simultaneous elections. The prime minister should dissolve the Lok Sabha and hold polls along with the four state assembly elections,” Gehlot told a press conference.
“The Congress will welcome it. We are prepared,” he said.
Rubbing it in, he said it will be in the “best interest of the country to dissolve the Lok Sabha early, given the all-pervasive atmosphere of fear, intolerance and intimidation.”
Gehlot said the ‘one nation, one election’ slogan is just a gimmick to deflect attention of people from government’s failures.
He also said the BJP was floating this idea because it fears the losing of upcoming state elections, in which case it will be in a very weak state to face the electorate in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Congress legal cell head Vivek Tankha said the party will move court if the government attempts to postpone upcoming state assembly elections. “This cannot be done without a constitutional amendment,” he said.
The government, seeking to evolve a consensus on holding simultaneous election to Lok Sabha and state assemblies, is considering convening an all-party meeting on the issue after the Law Commission recommends a legal framework on the matter.
The government is awaiting the report of the law panel which would lay down the legal framework of holding the two elections together. Once the report is with the government, it will have broad talking points, said media reports.
The law panel, which is examining the feasibility of holding simultaneous polls, had earlier sought the views of political parties before finalising its report.
Both the BJP and the Congress had stayed away from the consultation organised by the commission. The Congress had met the commission top brass recently where it had opposed the concept of simultaneous polls.
Political parties are divided on the issue. Besides NDA constituent Shiromani Akali Dal, the AIADMK, the Samajwadi Party and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti have supported it.
The Congress, Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, DMK, Telugu Desam Party, Left parties and the JDS have opposed the proposal.
ABP-CVoter Survey predicts Congress majority in three State polls, BJP win in Lok Sabha
Even as these moves are on, an opinion poll survey conducted by CVOTER and news channel ABP said the BJP would lose all three of the upcoming Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to the Congress, but the Modi factor would help the party’s fortunes in the Lok Sabha election next year in the three states.
The survey stated that the Congress would gain a clear majority in all the three states in the elections, by winning 117 out of 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh, 54 out of 90 in Chhattisgarh and 130 out of 200 in Rajasthan. The BJP, on the other hand, would manage only 106, 33 and 57 seats in the three states respectively, the opinion poll predicted.
BJP’s way out
The opinion poll is likely to strengthen a buzz within the BJP, reported by The Indian Express, of the possibility of holding 12 state elections together in early 2019.
Under this, said the IE report quoting a BJP source, elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram could be postponed and President’s rule imposed in these states as the term of these assemblies ends in November-December. This envisages the resignation of the four Chief Ministers once the term of their respective assemblies ends. This could clear the way for President’s rule and elections can then be held along with general elections in early 2019.
States like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha vote with the Lok Sabha polls anyway. Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Jharkhand — all NDA-ruled — can also be advanced so that they are held along with Lok Sabha polls, sources told IE.
With this option, at least on paper, as many as a dozen states can go to polls simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls without changing any law. “The BJP Chief Ministers will honour the Constitution by resigning before their term ends. In fact, the party will get credit for such a move in the elections also,” the source added.