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Simultaneous Polls Anti-federal, Anti-democratic: CPI(M)

The CPI(M) circulated a note among the heads of political parties at a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the "One Nation, One Election" issue on June 19.
Simultaneous Polls Anti-federal

Holding simultaneous polls to Parliament and state Assemblies is fundamentally anti-federal and anti-democratic and thus, against the Constitution, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said on Wednesday, June 19, listing out the reasons for its opposition to the "artificial attempt" to introduce the "One Nation, One Election" process by the government.

In a note circulated among the heads of political parties at a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the "One Nation, One Election" issue, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said holding simultaneous polls would "tamper" with the constitutional scheme of accountability of the government to the legislature.

<"Apart from the technical issues involved in holding 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 roots of the parliamentary democratic system, as ordained in the Constitution,” the note reads.

“Article 75(3) states that the collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers is to the House of the People. Similarly, Article 164(1) concerning the Council of Ministers states that it is collectively responsible to the legislative Assembly of a state," he added.

Yechury said under the Constitution, if a government loses the confidence of the legislature either by being voted out on a no-confidence motion or by losing a vote on a Money Bill, it is bound to resign and if no alternative government can be formed, the House is dissolved and a mid-term election held.

There is no fixity of tenure enshrined in the Constitution either for the Lok Sabha or the state legislatures, the Left leader said, adding that both Article 83(2) and Article 172(1) specify that the term of the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assembly will be for five years, "unless sooner dissolved".

"Any attempt to prolong the life of the Lok Sabha or legislature will not only be unconstitutional, but also, anti-democratic. It is the will of the people through their elected representatives that must prevail," he said.

Yechury further pointed out that in order to pave the way for simultaneous elections, various suggestions were made by the NITI Aayog to amend the Constitution. One of the suggestions made by a discussion paper released by the Niti Aayog is that if the dissolution of the Lok Sabha cannot be avoided and the remainder of the term of the Lok Sabha is not long, then a provision can be made for the President to carry out the administration of the country, on the aid and advice of a Council of Ministers to be appointed by him/her till the next House is constituted. However, this “outrageous proposal” will only serve as a back door policy to bring an executive Presidency.

The note also says that another casualty of the simultaneous elections will be federalism. One of the proposals for aligning the Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections made by the 79th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, 2015 and the Niti Aayog paper is to extend the life of some of the assemblies, or, shorten the tenure of some in a phased manner. This, Yechury said, is nothing but an assault on the rights of the states and circumscribes the rights of citizens to elect their legislators.

Further, the suggestion that “the Governor could run the state if dissolution takes place after the major part of the term is over, would again mean Central rule”.

He added, “The right of elected legislators and members of the Lok Sabha to vote out any government cannot be circumscribed, nor can the right of a ruling party which has a stable majority in the House to recommend dissolution of the House and hold early elections also be curtailed.”

In a vast country like India with myriad diversities, “only a federal set-up can sustain political democracy” and having elections at different times is one aspect.

He says, “We are, therefore, totally opposed to any artificial attempt to bring about simultaneous elections which can only be done by trampling upon the existing Constitutional scheme of parliamentary democracy.”

Urgent Need for Electoral Reforms

The note also suggested the government to immediately set-up a parliamentary mechanism to suggest electoral reforms so as to ensure free and fair elections.

Pointing out the questionable role of the Election Commission during the 17th general elections, Yechury said, “The CPI(M) is of the firm opinion that the current practice of the government of the day appointing the Election Commissioners must be replaced by these appointments being made by a collegium under the sanction of the President of India.”

On the question of credibility of Electronic Voter Machines, the party suggests that “parliamentary legislation must ensure that at least 50% of the votes counted by the EVMs are matched with the VVPAT. There is also a need to re-examine the credibility of the EVMs and verifiability of the VVPATs.”

Demanding laws to curb the use of money power during elections, Yechury said, “This should begin by banning the electoral bond scheme which was smuggled in the Finance Bill before the Parliament ignoring the opposition to this scheme at that stage.. Corporate funding of political parties should be banned and we should move towards a system of State funding.”

Another suggestion is that “the country must seriously consider a partial proportional representation system to ensure that democracy is properly established. Democracy by definition is the rule of the majority. But no government at the Centre in India, after we adopted our Constitution, has ever had the support of over 50% of the votes polled”.

With inputs from PTI.

Also read: Decoding One Nation One Poll

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