The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong half-nod to parallel polls

New Delhi, Aug. 4: The Congress today agreed in principle with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s proposal of synchronising Assembly and parliamentary polls but also suspected ulterior political motives behind his move.

“We are not opposed in principle to the idea of simultaneous Assembly and parliamentary polls. But there has to be a concrete and detailed proposal from the government,” Congress spokesperson Satyavrata Chaturvedi said.

His statement shed light on the party’s conflicting stand immediately after Advani had floated the proposal on Saturday. While senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee had reacted positively, chief spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy had rejected the suggestion.

Chaturvedi virtually confirmed that leaders in the government had informally sounded out their counterparts in the main Opposition party.

According to Chaturvedi, Mukherjee was informally consulted by the government.

“But there has been no formal consultation and concrete proposal from the government,” he emphasised.

The Centre, Chaturvedi said, should clarify through a detailed, formal proposal whether the synchronising of polls would entail amendments to the Constitution.

The spokesperson said he had reasons to doubt whether such a proposal, if any, would merit serious consideration by the Congress. If the BJP was indeed sincere about the move, it should have at least consulted its partners in the ruling National Democratic Alliance, if not the Opposition, he pointed out.

As the proposal involved legal and constitutional issues, its practicability should have been verified by referring it to constitutional experts, Chaturvedi said. But none of this had been done before Advani floated the idea.

Perhaps, Advani came up with the proposal because the BJP was feeling insecure about the Assembly polls later this year and the disastrous effect a likely defeat would have on its prospects in the general elections, the Congress leader said.

Chaturvedi, however, ducked questions on whether his party had consulted its chief ministers in 14 states before endorsing the deputy Prime Minister’s idea.

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