Simultaneous polls an “election jumla” : Chidambaram

New Delhi, Jan 30  A day after President Ram Nath Kovind pitched for simultaneous Lok Sabha and state Assembly polls, Congress leader P Chidambaram termed it as another “election jumla” (gimmick) by the Modi government, saying it cannot be done under the current constitutional provisions.

Speaking at a panel discussion after the release of his book ‘Speaking Truth to Power’, Chidambaram said the Constitution of India does not provide for a fixed term to any government, and unless it is amended, one cannot have simultaneous elections.

“In a parliamentary democracy, especially when we have 30 states, under the present Constitution you cannot have simultaneous election.

“This is another of those election jumla. One nation, one tax was a jumla. Now one nation, one election is a jumla,” he said in reply to a question.

The former finance minister also told a disgruntled Congressman, who asked whether Rahul Gandhi was competent enough to lead the party, that he was “their leader” as nine out of 10 partymen accepted him as its chief.

He said the Congress would put its act together before the 2019 elections, and will pose a “formidable challenge” to the BJP. “Don’t write off the Congress party…wait for Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan poll results,” he said.

“A party leader is chosen by the party’s rank and file.

Without doubt in my mind, I am clear that nine out of 10 people in the party across the country would say Rahul Gandhi should be the president of the party.”

He said he and all in the party wanted him to succeed.

“He almost did in Gujarat. Wait for Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where we will succeed. Then you may change your view,” he said.

The former Union minister, whose book was released by ex-president Pranab Mukherjee, said one can artificially construct the appearance of a simultaneous election by advancing some elections and postponing some, and one could hold parliamentary election and elections to five or six states, but not in all the 30 states.

“What if a government falls tomorrow? Will you put it under President’s rule for four years? It can’t be done,” he said.

President Kovind had, in his maiden address to the joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament yesterday, made a strong pitch for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, and called for a consensus among political parties on the issue.

He said frequent polls posed a “huge burden” on resources and impeded the development process.

Prime Minister Modi has been pitching for this for some time now and urged political parties to arrive at a consensus after debating the issue.

Responding to a question about the “disarray” in the opposition with no combination looking to pose a formidable challenge to Narendra Modi, Chidambaram said there will be some pre-poll and post-election alliances in some states.

“Since most parties (in the opposition) are single-state parties, their agenda is rather limited. Therefore, it is very difficult to bring all opposition parties together.

“We will come together to fight elections in 2019 by some kind of a broad understanding…I am absolutely clear that we will pose a formidable challenge to the BJP whenever elections are held,” he asserted.

Another Congress leader Shashi Tharoor denied that the Congress party was “lazy” when out of power. “I personally don’t think so. Maybe, we should be more active on the streets that may galvanise more people,” he said when asked whether Congress is lazy.

Mukherjee earlier described Chidambaram as one of the three main architects of India’s liberalisation, with former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, as others. Both Singh and Ahluwalia were present at the function.

During question-answer session after the book release, Chidambaram said creation of jobs was the biggest concern of people that helped leaders like Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakore to mobilise the electorate in Gujarat.

He said the government has failed to create jobs and it should worry about the issue.

“After four years of government, they have failed to deal with issues of employment, education and agriculture,” he said.

Ahluwalia said while job creation was a concern, no jobs will be created if there is no growth. “The big focus is on how to get the growth back and how to tackle unemploment”.

He also agreed with the idea that there were too many elections in the country, but said there existed some concerns as mentioned by Chidambaram that the suggestion of holding simultaneous elections is not practical.

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