The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong differs on combined poll proposal
- Jaipal junks Advani idea, Pranab not averse

New Delhi, Aug. 2: The Congress today spoke in different voices over deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s proposal for synchronising Assembly and parliamentary elections.

In the capital, the party’s chief spokesman virtually dismissed Advani’s suggestion, saying the BJP leader was prone to indulging in “semi-academic speculation”. The idea, S. Jaipal Reddy said, had neither been discussed by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet nor the National Democratic Alliance.

“Advani keeps floating these trial balloons without ever following them up with concrete action or proposition,” Reddy said, adding that proof of a proposal lay in political will and not in “loud thinking”.

“If Advani is so keen on synchronisation, his government should advance (the) Lok Sabha polls to November, when Assembly polls of five states are scheduled,” Reddy told reporters. The Congress is prepared for it, he asserted.

Reddy’s reaction came in response to Advani’s statement earlier in the day that the government was holding informal consultations with allies and Election Commission members on synchronising central and state elections.

The deputy Prime Minister had said that five years in government “have made us intensely conscious” of the fact that the ruling party remaining in a continuous election mode was a “serious handicap” for good governance.

In Calcutta, Congress Working Committee member Pranab Mukherjee contradicted Reddy. He said a discussion was on at the political and apolitical level on whether a mechanism could be evolved on the basis of a political consensus to hold simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

“Every year, there is one election or the other. And in view of elections, the government always can’t take hard decisions,” Mukherjee told reporters.

“This would benefit the country’s economy by way of saving the huge expenditure involved in conducting the elections,” he added.

Mukherjee felt the government was within its constitutional right to hold early elections to the Lok Sabha, but could not compel a state government to hold simultaneous parliamentary and Assembly elections where the five-year term of existing Assemblies had not expired.

Reddy declined to comment on the views of his party colleague.

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