The Congress today rejected the central government's proposal for simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies, saying it was a "constitutional perversity".
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi alleged that the proposal, if accepted, would hit at the very core of democracy in India, and wondered if the country and the states will be under the President's rule in the event of governments failing to complete their term.
"The proposal of simultaneous election dressed up with fancy phrases such as 'One Nation, One Election' is antithetical to democracy. It is nothing but another example of authoritarian and dictatorship," he alleged "Is it yet another shagufa' (gimmick) which you have thrown which sounds nice, which is a great jumla', the 'one nation one election' but at the core is it a hollow concept without meaning. Are you having two-thirds majority present ... I can count at least ten constitutional amendments are required," Singhvi told reporters.
The Congress leader said the simple outcome of compulsory simultaneous polls' is to deny the people of India right of "electing their government and representative. The federal structure of our polity would stand decimated by such an authoritarian and autocratic step." Citing the example of a state assembly being dissolved before the completion of its tenure of five years, he said it will be compulsorily kept in suspended animation and people will be under the Governor's rule for the balance tenure until the completion of five years.
He said that "there would be no elected Government or representative as elections would not be held until the completion of full five years.
"This would be even more preposterous in case the Parliament was to be dissolved for some reason prior to the completion of its tenure. Won't then the country be ruled by President's rule? This can only result in dictatorship of a few and tyranny of some un-elected," he said.
Singhvi asked a set of questions to the government on the proposal to hold simultaneous elections, asking whether holding them would require dissolution of several legislative assemblies which are still halfway (or less) through their terms.
"This would be a betrayal of the electorate in those states and would result in a significant expense to the exchequer," he said.
Simultaneous elections were always held since Independence but due to vagaries of coalition politics, assemblies were dissolved earlier, he said, adding that even if simultaneous elections are announced, there is no guarantee that all the state governments so formed would serve their full five year terms. "This would result in holding of elections again and defeat the purpose of the simultaneous elections." "Where does the Constitution authorise the central government to dissolve the assemblies or suspend the governments, except under the emergency clauses? Is the debate purely academic or does the government even have a road-map? "As usual, BJP's enthusiasm is based not so much on administrative reasons but instead on maximizing political gain and convenience. This is why, aside from vague reasons of administrative disruption, none of the BJP leaders are able to provide more cogent reasons for the same," he alleged.
Singhvi said to get the proposal through, the government will need two-thirds majority to pass such a Constitutional amendment and it looks very difficult to go through.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives us this argument that hundreds of crores would be saved if elections are held together. A Parliament Standing Committee estimates the entire cost of polls to Lok Sabha and all Assemblies as Rs 4,500 crore. We would like to advise him to first stop spending Rs 4,600 crore of public money on self-promotion and propaganda," he said.
Singhvi expressed fears that the concept of federalism engrained into the Constitution and multi-party Parliamentary system, would also be endangered, if simultaneous elections take place.
Large parties with a larger footprint will have more advantages in campaign spending and publicity and the voices of regional parties would be submerged in the din, he claimed.
"The bottom line is that, this is another preposterous suggestion by a self-absorbed, narcissist and self-centred Modi Government and the BJP that disregards any constitutional norms and established conventions," he alleged.
"The proposal of simultaneous elections' to Parliament and assemblies across India' being mooted by the Modi government is a Constitutional perversity and hits at the very core of democracy in India. Any such proposal would be an anti-thesis to democracy' and go against the grain of basic structure of Constitution of India, as also the letter and spirit of democracy per say," he alleged.
The Law Commission held consultations with political parties on the proposal for simultaneous elections.
Seeking to give shape to the central government's concept of "one nation, one election", the Law Commission's internal working paper has recommended holding the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls simultaneously but in two phases beginning 2019.
Political parties are divided on the issue. Besides NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal, the AIADMK, the Samajwadi Party and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti have supported it.
Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, DMK, Telugu Desam Party, Left parties and the JD(S) have opposed the proposal.
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