Congress opposes one nation, one election: ‘Undemocratic, against federalism’

The Mallikarjun Kharge-led Congress demanded that the idea of one nation, one election be abandoned and the high-powered panel formed to study it be dissolved.

The Congress on Friday strongly opposed the idea of holding simultaneous elections in the country, saying that it goes against the guarantees of federalism and the basic structure of the Constitution.

In a letter to the secretary of the committee on one nation, one election, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge demanded that the “undemocratic” idea be abandoned and the high-powered committee formed to study it be dissolved. The panel is headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind.

In the letter, Kharge urged the former president “not to allow his persona and the office of the former president of India to be abused by the Union government to subvert the constitution and parliamentary democracy in this country”.

“The Indian National Congress is strongly opposed to the very idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’,” he said in the letter to Niten Chandra, the secretary of the committee. “For the sake of maintaining a thriving and a robust democracy, it is imperative that the entire idea must be abandoned and the high-powered committee dissolved.”

The Central government constituted the high-level eight-member committee, headed by Kovind, earlier last year. On October 18, it had written to six national parties and 33 state parties asking for their suggestions on holding simultaneous three-tier elections to the Lok Sabha, state assemblies and local bodies.

The panel is planning to submit its report, which is in the final stages, to the Union government before the upcoming Lok Sabha polls are announced, people familiar with the matter told HT.

In Friday’s letter, Congress chief Kharge alleged that the committee seems to have “already made up its mind and seeking a consultation seems to be an eyewash”.

“The government, parliament and ECI should work together to ensure people’s mandate is respected rather than divert people’s attention by talking about undemocratic ideas like simultaneous elections,” Kharge said.

He also questioned the composition of the committee, alleging that it is “biased” as it was formed without giving substantial representation to the Opposition parties that head various state governments.

“When the committee is headed by no less than the former President of India, it is distressing when even common voters feel the consultations of the committee are likely to be a pretence since minds have already been made up. Firm views in support of the proposal have already been expressed in public and a dispassionate analysis of pros and cons is not being attempted in a serious and systematic manner,” the Congress chief said in his response.

Kharge targets BJP

Without naming the BJP, the Congress chief said that in the last 10 years the only instances where the chief ministers have lost the confidence of the house have been when “one particular party has abused the government machinery” at its disposal” and “subverted the anti-defection law to steal people’s mandate”.

“There is no place for the concept of simultaneous elections in a country that has adopted a Parliamentary system of government. Such forms of simultaneous elections that are being floated by the government go against the guarantees of federalism contained in the Constitution,” Kharge asserted.

Further, Kharge mentioned that he was amused to hear the argument that holding simultaneous elections would result in financial savings. He pointed out that such an argument seems baseless.

He said the expenses on polls are less than 0.02 per cent of the total Union budget for the preceding five years. Noting that expenses for assembly elections may also be a similar percentage of their state budgets, he said, “We feel the people will be willing to consider this small amount as the cost of free and fair elections to uphold democracy.”

He said expenditure on 2014 elections was ₹3,870 crores which the committee claims is high.

“If the committee, the government and ECI are serious about the expenditure made on elections, it would be more appropriate if they could make the funding process more transparent, especially in the matter of electoral bonds. This would truly empower the voter and increase voter awareness,” he said.

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