President calls for ‘constructive debate’ on simultaneous LS, Assembly elections

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on January 31, 2017

PM Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee arrive at the Parliament House in New Delhi, on Tuesday   -  Kamal Narang

Welcomes talks on State funding of polls to end money power

President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday favoured a constructive debate on simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assemblies and funding of polls to eradicate money power, inviting mixed responses from political parties.

In his address to the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament marking the opening of the Budget session, the President said: “Frequent elections put on hold development programmes, disrupt normal public life, impact essential services and burden human resource with prolonged period of election duty.”

“My government welcomes a constructive debate on simultaneous conduct of elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. Funding of elections to eradicate misuse of money power also needs to be debated,” he said.

In the speech, which is the government’s narrative on what it had done during the year and what it plans to do in the new financial year, the President said the government will welcome any decision taken by the Election Commission in this regard after consultations.

The issue has been flagged on several occasions by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, and the government has been canvassing support for its favourable view on the issue. The Centre has held online public consultations; the Election Commission, too, supports the view. In a letter sent to the Law Ministry in the first week of May, the EC had reportedly conveyed its willingness to hold Lok Sabha and Assembly polls together.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the idea of simultaneous election is completely undemocratic.

“India started as a democracy with simultaneous elections. Why did it break? Because you (President) invoked Article 356 (President’s rule) against EMS Namboodiripad government in Kerala. You broke the chain. Are you prepared to abolish Article 356,” he added.

BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said his party welcomes the proposal. “It can save a lot of energy, time and money,” he said. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi led the Opposition’s tirade against the President’s address.

The Amethi MP said the speech had nothing to offer for the young people in the country. “The main question in India today is creation of jobs for young people,” he told reporters outside the Parliament. He said the Centre is a complete failure in job creation.

‘Election manifesto’

Terming the speech as an “election manifesto”, the CPI(M) said the President’s projection for the agriculture sector is without considering the impact of demonetisation. CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the demonetisation resulted in job loss.

Published on January 31, 2017
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