Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah look on during the all-party meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday met leaders of political parties in Parliament to discuss his suggestion of holding Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections together. The Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Trinamool Congress, the DMK and Leftist parties stayed away.
Modi had invited all political parties which have at least one member either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha.
Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi said: “The ‘one nation, one election’ concept is a means to divert public attention from real issues. The real issues of election were EVM, criminality and use of money power.
“Many MPs with court cases are in Parliament. We need election reform and we should discuss the same. The government should know the agenda of opposition parties. Why should only they decide on the agenda?”
Among regional heavyweights who boycotted were West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and DMK supremo MK Stalin.
Apart from Mamata, other chief ministers who did not show up were K. Chandrashekar Rao of Telangana and Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi.
The DMK and Muslim League, both Congress allies, however attended.
Mamata Banerjee, in her letter to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, said: “Response on such a sensitive and serious subject like ‘one country and one election’ in such a short time would not do justice to the subject it deserves.
“The matter requires consultations with the Constitutional experts, election experts, and all the party members. Instead of doing the matter hurriedly, I would like to request you to kindly circulate a white paper on the subject to all political parties inviting their views by providing adequate time.
“If you only do so, we will be able to give concrete suggestions on this important subject.”
Mayawati said that she would have attended if it was on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). She alleged that people’s faith in the EVMs had dwindled to a “worrisome level,” and described the idea of simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls as a ploy to divert attention from issues like poverty.
Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal United chief Nitish Kumar, YSR Congress leader and Andhra chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, BJD leader and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Farooq Abdullah of National Conference, Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal and PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, attended.
Naveen Patnaik in a statement said, “Frequent elections affect the pace of development and also rock the spirit of co-operative federalism. BJD will fully support the idea of ‘One nation One election.’ He added that BJD will extend complete support to Women’s reservation in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
Akhilesh Yadav said, “They should focus on the promises they have made to people, we hope they will work more on fulfilling those promises.” Talking about his absence in the meeting he said that there are many parties that will never agree to decisions like One Nation One Election.
The CPI-M came out strongly against the proposal, calling it “fundamentally anti-federal, anti-democratic” and striking at the root of the parliamentary democratic system.
“Apart from the technical issues involved in the holding of the 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 root of the parliamentary democratic system as ordained in the Constitution,” CPM chief Sitaram Yechury said.
NDA ally AIADMK’s MLA & Tamil Nadu Minister D Jayakumar was quoted by ANI as saying, “One Nation One Election’ is an issue which needs to be discussed in detail. There are various ramifications of this decision. AIADMK will make its decision vocal in meeting in Delhi today.
PM Modi has invited the chiefs of all political parties, which have at least one member either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha, for the meeting to discuss “one nation, one election”, celebration of 75 years of Independence in 2022 and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year.
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