Simultaneous elections: CEC OP Rawat said a constitutional amendment will be needed
New Delhi: The Election Commission today reiterated that holding state elections along with the general election next year will not be possible without any constitutional amendment or legal framework. The terms of assemblies cannot be cut short or President's Rule declared in states to hold elections without a change in the constitution, said Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat a day after a fresh push by the BJP for the "One nation one election" idea. Sources say the BJP is planning to hold elections in 11 states along with the 2019 general elections.
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"On the issue of 'one nation one poll," the Election Commission had given inputs and suggestions in 2015 itself... If the term of some state assemblies needs to be curtailed or extended, then a constitutional amendment will be required," Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat told reporters today.
Mr Rawat also pointed to the logistical difficulties, saying arrangements with regard to 100 per cent availability of VVPATs (voter-verifiable paper trail machines) will be a constraint. Additional police force, polling personnel would also be needed.
Sources in the BJP have said holding election in 11 states will not require any constitutional amendment. President's Rule can be declared in states where the term of the assembly ends before the middle of next year. For BJP-ruled states where term ends later, assembly could be dissolved early.
Elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram are due in November-December this year. These states would be the candidates for President's Rule. In NDA-ruled Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra and Bihar, the elections are due much later. So assemblies can be dissolved and election can take place along with the Lok Sabha polls, sources said.
There, however, are certain conditions for declaration of President's Rule under Article 356 of the Constitution. These include breakdown of a coalition, loss of majority in assembly, postponement of elections for unavoidable reasons and the inability of the legislature to elect a leader as the Chief Minister.
The Congress has dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to dissolve the Lok Sabha early and announce general elections along with polls in four states, where the terms of the assemblies end this year. Party general secretary Ashok Gehlot said this is "not possible" under the Constitution or the law.
BJP ally Nitish Kumar has reiterated that the concept of one nation one poll is right, but it is not feasible now. "It will not be possible this time to hold elections for the Lok Sabha and all states. While the idea is possible, it can't be done at this moment," Mr Kumar said.
On Monday, BJP chief Amit Shah wrote to the Law Commission expressing support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "One nation one election" idea. In his eight-page letter, the BJP chief said the opposition to simultaneous elections seems to be politically motivated.
The government contends that holding polls at the national and state levels will cut down on the cost of elections in terms of both time and money. A paper by the Law Commission recently recommended holding the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in two phases beginning 2019.
Most opposition parties have scoffed at the idea despite the government's many attempts to bring them on board. The Congress, Trinamool Congress, AAP, DMK, Telugu Desam Party, Left parties and the JD(S) have consistently opposed the proposal, questioning its feasibility and arguing that it would be against federal principles.