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Ex-President Kovind to Head Panel to Explore Possibility of 'One-Nation, One-Election'

Opposition leaders question feasibility of move, say it will pose threat to the country’s federal structure.
President Ram Nath Kovind

President Ram Nath Kovind.Image Courtesy: President of India/Twitter

New Delhi: The government has constituted a committee headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind to explore the feasibility of "one nation, one election", opening the possibility of Lok Sabha polls being advanced so that they could be held with a string of state Assembly contests.

Opposition leaders  have slammed the government's move to set up a committee to study feasibility of "one nation, one election", alleging it would pose a threat to the federal structure of the country.

Sources said on Friday that Kovind will explore the feasibility of the exercise and the mechanism to see as to how the country can go back to having simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls, as was the case till 1967.

He is expected to speak to experts and may also consult leaders of different political parties, they said.

The government's decision comes a day after it decided to call a special session of Parliament between September 18 and 22, the agenda for which is under wraps.

Since coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a strong votary for the idea of simultaneous polls, which include those at local bodies, citing financial burden caused by almost continuous election cycle and jolt to development work during the polling period.

Kovind too had echoed Modi's view and expressed his support to the idea after becoming President in 2017.

Addressing Parliament, he had said in 2018, "Frequent elections not only impose a huge burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of the model code of conduct."

Like Modi, he had called for a sustained debate and expressed hope that all political parties would reach a consensus on this issue.

With the Modi government approaching end of its second term, there is a view in its top echelon that it can no longer let the issue drag on and needs to move decisively to underscore its purposefulness after debating on the topic for years.

Assembly polls are due in five states- Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Rajasthan- in November-December and they are scheduled to be followed by the Lok Sabha elections in May-June next year.

However, the recent moves by the government have thrown open the possibility of advancing the general elections and some state polls, which are scheduled after and with the Lok Sabha contest.

Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh assemblies are scheduled to go to the polls with the Lok Sabha elections.        

Threat to Federal Structure: Opposition

Opposition leaders on Friday slammed the government's move to set up a committee to study feasibility of "one nation, one election", alleging it would pose a threat to the federal structure of the country.

CPI leader D Raja said Prime Minister Narendra Modi always talks about India being mother of democracy and then how can the government take a unilateral decision without discussing with other political parties.

Priyanka Kakkar of the Aam Aadmi Party said this shows the "panic" in the ruling party after they saw the unity of opposition parties under the INDIA bloc.

"First they reduced LPG prices by Rs 200 and now the panic is so much that they are thinking of amending the Constitution. They have realised that they are not winning the upcoming elections.

"Also, can this move take care of inflation or high prices of petrol and diesel. Our Constitution was framed after a lot of discussion and what they want to do poses a threat to federalism," Kakkar told PTI.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said the country is already one and no one is questioning that.

"We demand fair elections, not 'one nation one election'. This move of 'one nation one election' is being brought to divert attention from our demand for fair election," he added.

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