The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP toils with poll timetable

New Delhi, Aug. 4: Looking at ways of putting into practice L.K. Advani’s idea of synchronous elections, the BJP has come across constitutional hurdles.

“Synchronisation is related to whether the Lok Sabha polls can be held along with the elections due in five states in November. First we have to look at the Lok Sabha polls, when you want to hold Lok Sabha elections,” a source said.

Indications suggest that for political or other reasons, the BJP is keen on holding parliamentary polls along with those due in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.

Sources said the law ministry is examining “tools” to see if the Assembly polls could be postponed. But they conceded that the method is not easy. “You can reschedule elections only in states which are ruled by you (the BJP) and your allies,” one of the sources said. Of the five poll-bound states, four are ruled by the Congress and the fifth by the Mizo National Front.

The sources said the Election Commission, which was sounded on Advani’s proposal, welcomed it as “desirable” but cautioned that there were problems.

The biggest was that the term of the five Assemblies expired between November and early January.

If the Centre wants to bring forward the Lok Sabha elections to February and hold the five state elections simultaneously, it will have to find a way of circumventing the constitutional provision that an Assembly’s term cannot continue beyond five years. The five states will require a government by January.

Changing this provision will need a constitutional amendment to be passed by a two-thirds majority in both Houses. The NDA does not have the numbers in the Upper House. Neither can a constitutional amendment be pushed through by a joint session of Parliament as in the case of the anti-terrorism law.

Another way of scaling the hurdle entails a perfect understanding between the BJP and the Congress — dissolve the Assemblies just before the five-year term ends, place the states under central rule and hold elections within six months.

The Supreme Court upheld this mechanism while ruling on a petition filed by the poll panel on the Gujarat election schedule. The decision to impose President’s rule will have to be ratified within six months, too.

Given the bottlenecks, the BJP is also looking at the option of holding the Lok Sabha polls in November itself.

The BJP feels that simultaneous polls will help the party’s Assembly poll candidates share the dividends from a Vajpayee-versus-Sonia campaign.

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