Early polls not on cards despite PM's 'simultaneous' talk

Last Updated 26 January 2018, 16:52 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have made a strong pitch for simultaneous Parliament and Assembly polls in his recent public comments, triggering speculation over whether early elections were actually on the cards.

But senior BJP leaders and key Union ministers have discounted any such "secret" plan to  advance Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. "No such plan is on cards. The prime minister wants a debate on the issue so that a consensus is eventually build up," said a senior BJP leader, underlining that Modi had himself made it clear that neither the BJP nor himself  could will it to happen on own terms - without all parties agreeing to the idea.

Ever since Modi voiced his plea for considering holding simultaneous polls for saving huge money at a Niti Aayog meeting and in two TV interviews, the social media has been agog with the talk  of  "One nation, One election" idea. According to some commentators, the Lok Sabha elections could be even called by the end of 2018 rather than waiting for April-May 2019.

Discounting such a possibility, key BJP insiders said the prime minister would not want to force Lok Sabha polls earlier than scheduled.  They said the economy was just picking up and several developmental schemes and job generation projects needed more time to make impact on the electorate across the country.

Time for projects

These projects include massive electrification of most backward areas in states like Uttar Pradesh, irrigation projects, several farmer welfare schemes and measures to boost agriculture and agro-based industry.

Besides, Modi and the BJP leaders would not want the anti-incumbency issues faced by the saffron governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, which go to polls end of this year, to add to the burden of the NDA government in case of simultaneous polls, they pointed out.

However, the idea could be pursued vigorously if Modi gets another term. The holding of simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections may not be possible before 2024, and a Constitutional amendment is required to conduct such a synchronised exercise, former poll panel chief T S Krishnamurthy said. "But you can plan for 2024."

The last time the Lok Sabha polls were advanced by six months was in 2004. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government was confident of winning because of a strong performance of the BJP in the Assembly polls in December 2003. TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu, whose party's support was crucial for the NDA, also pressed for it. But the NDA's adventure went to benefit the Congress, which initially lacked confidence but fought well with several alliances across states.

(Published 26 January 2018, 16:38 IST)

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