PM calls for simultaneous polls, states not keen

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the fourth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, in New Delhi on Sunday, June 17, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday chose a congregation of chief ministers at Niti Aayog's Governing Council meet to renew his call for a wider debate on simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. It, however, evoked scant response from states, who demanded that the Centre resolve their financial and other issues on priority.

The prime minister, who chaired the governing council's meeting, said a beginning must be made by preparing a common voters' list for elections at state, local and panchayat levels and asked the states to consider the proposal in the "interest of the nation".

The proposal, however, evoked no response from the federal bodies who came with their own list of demands, most of which revolved around their poor finances and weakening powers after the GST and setting up of the 15th Finance Commission.

Asked about the reaction of states on the Modi's proposal for simultaneous elections, Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar replied in the negative and said "they have been requested to consider".

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy sought 50% monetary assistance from the Centre for implementing the farm loan waiver scheme, while Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu raised the issue of state bifurcation and special category status. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the implementation of GST has limited the freedom of the state to raise resources.

The chief ministers of the Opposition-ruled states also demanded reframing of the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission which was going against their favour. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was the most vociferous against the Centre saying, it has never tried to know about states' problems and in the name of cooperative federalism, it "needlessly interferes in states' affairs". In the same vein, she alleged that the Niti Aayog does nothing for the states. Mamata said this after the meeting of the governing council.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar joined his Andhra Pradesh counterpart Naidu in demanding special category status for their states.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh urged the prime minister to constitute a committee of the Centre and states to formulate a blueprint of a national debt waiver scheme for farmers in consultation with states.

The issue of farm loan waiver took the centre stage as the main agenda of the council's meeting was to deliberate on steps taken to double farmers' income and the progress of government's flagship schemes. Modi said states should take steps to increase corporate investment in agriculture.

The prime minister said as the world expected India to soon turn into a $5trillion economy, more steps should be taken to meet the challenge.

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PM calls for simultaneous polls, states not keen

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