Mallikarjun Kharge calls meeting of INDIA bloc floor leaders on September 5 ahead of Parliament’s Special Session

Opposition steps up attack against the ‘one nation, one election’ panel headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind

September 03, 2023 08:36 pm | Updated September 04, 2023 12:31 pm IST - New Delhi

INDIA alliance party leaders are seen during a press conference in Mumbai. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge has convened floor leaders of INDIA on September 5 to discuss strategy on Parliament’s special session.

INDIA alliance party leaders are seen during a press conference in Mumbai. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge has convened floor leaders of INDIA on September 5 to discuss strategy on Parliament’s special session. | Photo Credit: ANI

Ahead of the Special Session of Parliament, floor leaders of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc will meet on September 5 at Congress president and Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge’s official residence at Rajaji Marg.

Sources said on September 3 that the meeting has been convened by Mr. Kharge. The Opposition parties will decide their strategy for the Special Session of Parliament that is to be held between September 18 and 22.

Though agenda for the five-day session has not been spelt out yet, there is speculation that the government may discuss the issue of holding simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha, State Assemblies, and local bodies.

Strongly opposing the move, the Congress has refused to be part of the Ram Nath Kovind-led committee in which party’s Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has declined to be a member.

In the recent Monsoon Session of Parliament too, the Opposition bloc worked cohesively and took common positions.

After three meetings, spread across Patna, Bengaluru, and Mumbai, the INDIA bloc has come together to take on the BJP at various fora and plan to unitedly contest the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Meanwhile, Opposition leaders continued to lash out at the idea of simultaneous elections on Sunday too. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said INDIA, that is Bharat, is a Union of States. “The idea of ‘one nation, one election’ is an attack on the Indian Union and all its States,” Mr. Gandhi said on social media platform X (formerly Twitter).

In a detailed statement, Mr. Kharge said the Narendra Modi government wants democratic India to slowly turn into a dictatorship. “This gimmick of forming a committee on ‘One Nation, One Election’ is a subterfuge for dismantling the federal structure of India,” Mr. Kharge said.

He said there will be at least five amendments required in the Constitution and a massive change in the Representation of the People Act of 1951. “The Constitutional Amendments shall be required to truncate the terms of the elected Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies, as also at the level of local bodies, so that they can be synchronised,” he said and asked if the proposed committee is best suited to deliberate and decide on perhaps the most drastic disruption in Indian electoral process.

“Should this huge exercise unilaterally be undertaken without consulting the political parties at the National level and at the State level? Should this humongous operation happen without bringing States and their elected governments on board?” he said adding that such an idea has been extensively examined and rejected by three committees in the past. “It remains to be seen whether the Fourth one has been constituted with a pre-decided outcome in mind. It baffles us that a representative of the prestigious Election Commission of India [EC] has been excluded from the committee,” he said.

The Congress president said the cost incurred by EC in conducting all elections between 2014-19 is around ₹5,500 crore, which is “only a fraction” of government’s Budget expenditure. “Drastic actions like ‘One Nation, One Election’ would sabotage our democracy, Constitution and evolved-time-tested procedures. What can be accomplished by simple electoral reforms would prove to be a disaster, like other disruptive ideas of PM Modi,” he said.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the BJP government is trying all gimmicks it can think of. “But Dr BR Ambedkar’s ‘One Man, One Value’ is the only one ideal we must not lose sight of. No amount of BJP’s attempts to divide, distract and spread discord will work,” Mr. Yechury said.

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