New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative of “one nation, one poll", or simultaneous parliamentary and assembly elections, faced its first hurdle on Wednesday after the heads of several prominent parties skipped the first meeting on the subject.
However, the Union government decided to set up a committee to give suggestions on the proposal and how it can be implemented. Modi has been talking about the idea of holding simultaneous elections since his first term as PM and this was the first time he had called a meeting to discuss the issue.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address, said that a committee will be constituted to give its suggestions on the subject in a time-bound manner," said defence minister Rajnath Singh after the meeting.
The problem for the government started after the Congress, which is the largest opposition party, skipped the meeting along with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been at loggerheads with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) also stayed away as did Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Congress leaders have demanded that there should be a discussion on the election procedure in Parliament and how the procedure can be improved. The party termed the idea as a “distraction tool".
“Congress president (Rahul Gandhi) has let the central government know that he will not be able to attend the meeting. The Congress also wants that there must be improvement in the way elections are conducted. We have also raised questions on the Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat, EVMs (electronic voting machines), paper ballots and the misuse of money, state machinery. The PM and central government do not pick up issues that the opposition raises," said senior Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi.
Singh said most parties who attended the meeting had supported the idea.
“Most parties gave their support to one nation, one election. CPM and CPI had a difference of opinion, but they did not oppose the idea, just the implementation of it," said Singh.
However, Sitaram Yechury, general secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, said: “We are totally opposed to any artificial attempt to bring about simultaneous elections, which can only be done by trampling upon the existing Constitutional scheme of parliamentary democracy. It is fundamentally anti-federal, anti-democratic."
Among the parties that attended the meeting were Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Biju Janata Dal (BJD), and YSR Congress Party besides members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
“Our party is supporting the idea of one nation, one election," said Naveen Patnaik, chief minister of Odisha and head of BJD.
But the views of the Congress were echoed by Mayawati, who demanded that a meeting should have been called by Modi to discuss EVMs.
“The decision of the government not to go back to ballot paper system of election and continue with EVMs is a threat to democracy and Constitution. If the meeting was called to discuss this issue I would have definitely taken part in it," Mayawati said in a Twitter post.
However, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) decided to send their representatives to the meeting.
Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal skipped the meeting, but the representative sent by the party, Raghav Chadha, was not allowed to attend the meeting.