The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong & friends cautious on parallel polls

New Delhi, Aug. 5: The Congress and other Opposition parties have decided to coordinate their responses on the synchronous Assembly and general elections proposal as deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today said the government would follow up on the trial balloon he floated on Saturday.

Without appearing to be questioning the proposal’s merit, the Congress, the Left parties, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and other smaller Opposition parties made it clear that they cannot be counted among its supporters.

The issue was discussed for the first time this morning at a routine meeting of Opposition floor leaders, including Congress deputy leader Shivraj Patil, CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee, Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and the Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan.

The Opposition leaders were almost unanimous that Advani’s proposal was a political ploy to gain partisan advantages. They questioned how such a serious proposal could be made without consulting the major political parties, both in the treasury benches and on the Opposition side.

Briefing reporters, Chatterjee accused Advani of tossing up the proposal to divert people’s minds from real issues through such “floaters”.

“The concept was suddenly floated by the deputy Prime Minister. No one knows what is the proposition,” he said. He asked whether Advani just meant advancing the parliamentary elections or also dissolution of several Assemblies prematurely to have synchronised polls.

Obviously, without getting details of what the government meant, it cannot expect the Opposition to respond, he said.

While the Congress officially made no comment on today’s discussions, party sources indicated that the proposal might not be realistic at all. On record, however, the party spokesman welcomed the idea in principle.

However, Devendra Nath Dwivedi, a party constitutional expert, came out openly against the proposal. If the Vajpayee government was so keen to advance parliamentary elections, it could well do so. But the talk of forcing Assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls was against the spirit of the Constitution and the parliamentary and federal system of governance, he asserted.

“Any talk of deferring or advancing Assembly polls or constitutionalising the simultaneity of parliamentary and Assembly elections is constitutionally untenable and runs counter to and is antithetical to the metaphysics of parliamentary system,” he said.

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