The government has constituted a committee headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind to explore the feasibility of ”one nation, one election”, opening the possibility of Lok Sabha polls being advanced so that they could be held with a string of state assembly contests.
Sources said on Friday that Kovind will explore the feasibility of the exercise and the mechanism to see how the country can go back to having simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls, as was the case till 1967.
They said he is expected to speak to experts and may also consult leaders of different political parties.
The government’s decision comes a day after it decided to call a special session of Parliament between September 18 and 22, the agenda for which is under wraps.
Since coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a strong advocate for the idea of simultaneous polls, which include those at local bodies, citing the financial burden caused by the almost continuous election cycle and the jolt to development work during the polling period.
Kovind too had echoed Modi’s view and expressed his support for the idea after becoming President in 2017. Addressing Parliament in 2018, he said, Frequent elections not only impose a huge burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of the model code of conduct.” Like Modi, he had called for a sustained debate and expressed hope that all political parties would arrive at a consensus on this issue.
With the Modi government approaching the end of its second term, there is a view in its top echelon that it can no longer let the issue drag on and needs to move decisively to underscore its purposefulness after debating on the topic for years.
With the ruling BJP under Modi always animated by grander themes and big ticket ideas to rally popular support, the issue will also suit the party politically and catch the opposition off-guard, leaders in the party believe.
Assembly polls are due in five states—Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Rajasthan—in November-December, and they are scheduled to be followed by the Lok Sabha elections in May-June next year.
However, the recent moves by the government have thrown open the possibility of advancing the general elections and some state polls, which are scheduled after and with the Lok Sabha contest.
Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh assemblies are scheduled to go to the polls with the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP enjoys good relations with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy and his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, even though they are not formally part of its alliance. The BJP is in power in Arunachal, while Sikkim is ruled by an ally.
Maharashtra and Haryana, two states where the BJP is in power with allies, and JMM-Congress-ruled Jharkhand are slated to go to the polls after the Lok Sabha contest.