BJP yet to make up its mind on joint elections

BJP yet to make up its mind on joint elections
Election Commissioner O P Rawat’s assertion that the Commission would be ready for simultaneous Lok Sabha and state polls by September 2018 brings back the focus on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s earlier call for holding joint elections.

But the big question is whether the BJP will be ready as the government needs time until early 2019 for the rollout of all its promises and results on the ground to impress voters. The government has acknowledged problems related to demonetisation and GST which has impacted the economy.

A source in the party said it would take some time to settle down before reaping the benefits of reform. The government of the day would like to advance elections only if the atmosphere is conducive for the ruling party, said a BJP leader.

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee went for a snap election on the assessment that the nation’s mood was in favour of him, but his calculation went wrong. BJP leaders believe a political assessment would be available next year when nine states go to the hustings in two batches.

While Karnataka, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura will face elections in early 2018, Mizoram, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh will see elections towards the end of the year.

One reason for advancing elections is that the BJP may counter the anti-incumbency factor in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said the party is for one nation, one election which was propagated by Modi and seconded by former President Pranab Mukherjee but it would require building consensus among political parties as well as amendments to the Constitution and election laws.

“We would not like to thrust the idea on people before having an informed debate on it,” Rao argued. If the 2019 general elections are held as per schedule, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha polls may be clubbed since the term of each of their assemblies are ending by June 2019.

A parliamentary committee and Niti Aayog which had submitted their reports on the possibility of simultaneous elections had agreed that the most feasible solution would be to have two-phase polls.

Niti Ayog had proposed that phase one, combining the Lok Sabha with 14 states, may take place between April to May of 2019. And the remaining in October-November of 2021.

This would need, apart from altering the Constitution and other laws, one-time extension or curtailment of terms of various state assemblies based on some suggested rules or framework, the government think tank had suggested.

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