Tuesday, Aug 05, 2003
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By Neena Vyas
But does the recent suggestion, coming as it did months before the Assembly elections are due in five States, mean that the Government is toying with the idea of advancing the Lok Sabha elections to synchronise them with at least a few Assembly elections? Or, is the Government thinking of finding some way to postpone the Assembly elections due later this year?
Authoritative sources in the Government point out that there are "legal, constitutional and political" problems that would have to be dealt with if "synchronous" elections are to become a reality. Moreover, some far-reaching amendments would have to be made in the Constitution to deal with the situation created by a Government falling mid-term.
In the top echelons of the Government it has been pointed out that barring the United Kingdom, in most European Parliaments elected legislatures have a fixed term a Government may fall, a new Government may take its place, but elections are held only at fixed intervals, as in the case of the United States. Many political parties here do not like the idea of a fixed legislature tenure.
"If there is a broad agreement that synchronised Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are desirable then this can be achieved over a period of time spanning several Lok Sabha elections," it has been suggested. Regret was also expressed that the Constitutional Review Committee did not look at this issue.
There is also an admission on the part of senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders that "after a good monsoon this year, fairly good economic indicators, good performance by the Government and a favourable situation internationally and in the Indian diaspora" early Lok Sabha elections may not be a bad idea. But it is also admitted that even if the BJP wanted to advance the general elections, it would have to consult at least its major allies, and some of them may not be prepared for early elections, say sometime around February.
Senior BJP leaders claim that the subject of "synchronised elections" has been broached at the informal level with not only the Election Commission but also with a few political parties that have all responded "positively" to the idea at the theoretical level. Informally, the Law Ministry has also been asked to look at various possibilities.
However, there are reservations on the issue of curtailing the term of office of the elected Assemblies or extending them. The second option is considered almost impossible unless some States whose term has been completed are brought under President's Rule for some time.
Politically, it seems that the BJP is especially keen on holding the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls. The party could then strike a bargain in one stroke on seat-sharing with the Bahujan Samaj Party for the Assembly and the Lok Sabha. It could "persuade" the Chief Minister, Mayawati, to part with a larger share of Lok Sabha seats to the BJP in return for a larger share in the Assembly elections. The party has also begun the process of trying to impress its allies and friends heading State Governments that simultaneous polls may be better for them as "local issues" will tend to take a back seat when "national issues" are projected.
The BJP has already given broad indications that it would like to make the Lok Sabha election a straight contest Atal Behari Vajpayee versus Sonia Gandhi, the Prime Minister versus the Congress president, the 23-party National Democratic Alliance versus a Congress-led alliance which has still to shape up. And there is a view that in this scenario it will be advantage BJP.
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