The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parallel polls open for debate
- Decision only after talks with all sides: Advani

New Delhi, Aug. 5: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today said a final decision on synchronising Lok Sabha and Assembly polls will be taken only after holding “wider consultations” with the BJP, the National Democratic Alliance, the cabinet and the Opposition.

At the weekly BJP parliamentary party meeting, Advani was quoted by spokesman V.K. Malhotra as saying: “The party and the cabinet will consider the proposal. Consultations will also be held with the NDA partners and other political parties before a final decision is taken.”

Advani, who unveiled the proposal before the press last Saturday, told BJP MPs it was first mooted by Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and followed up by him. The Constitution makers had been in favour of synchronised polls and the practice was followed till 1971, he said.

He also pointed out that if a ruling party was constantly kept in poll mode, it impacted the government’s performance. Besides, simultaneous elections would reduce expenditure.

Although the BJP officially maintains the concept is an “academic one”, sources said the possibility of holding parallel polls in November was “seriously” discussed by A.B. Vajpayee, Advani and M. Venkaiah Naidu on their way to Ayodhya for Ramchandradas Paramhans’ funeral last Friday. Advani spoke to the press the day after.

The discussions have now narrowed down to the possibility of advancing the Lok Sabha polls scheduled for the second half of 2004 to November this year. The option of postponing Assembly polls has been ruled out by the Election Commission.

“It is not strictly according to Constitution. Saving expenses is important but it is the democratic aspect which is more important,” chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh told a TV channel. Of the five poll-bound states, one of the Assemblies has to meet in early December.

The BJP was initially keen on a February general election, mainly to avoid the spin-offs of another “populist” budget on the economy. But sources had all along been sceptical whether the poll panel would agree to have Assembly and general elections in a space of just four months.

The BJP has touted the electoral reforms it has legislated as one of the major “achievements” of the NDA government. The feeling in the party was that if the poll panel objected to the expenses involved in back-to-back elections, the party could cut a “sorry figure”. Hence, the talk of having Lok Sabha and Assembly elections together.

“It is also the simplest way of overcoming other hurdles like bringing a constitutional amendment, extending the term of the five Assemblies etc. Rescheduling a Lok Sabha election is entirely the government’s prerogative,” the sources said.


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