The leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has declined to be part of the eight-member committee headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind to see whether India could hold parliamentary and state assembly elections simultaneously.
In a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also part of the committee, Mr Chowdhury pointed out that Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge “has been excluded” from the committee, and instead they took former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
“This is a deliberate insult to the system of parliamentary democracy,” Mr Chowdhury said in the letter.
The other members of the committee are former 15th Finance Commission chairman NK Singh, former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash C Kashyap, senior advocate Harish Salve, and former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Sanjay Kothari.
The committee will look into the feasibility of holding not only Lok Sabha and assembly elections simultaneously, but also elections to municipalities and panchayats, according to the gazette notification.
“I have no hesitation whatsoever in declining to serve on the committee whose terms of reference have been prepared in a manner to guarantee its conclusions. It is, I am afraid, a total eyewash. Moreover, the sudden attempt to thrust a constitutionally suspect, pragmatically non-feasible and logistically unimplementable idea on the nation, months before the general elections, raises serious concerns about ulterior motives of the government,” the Congress leader said in the letter.
“Furthermore, I find that the current LOP in the Rajya Sabha has been excluded. This is a deliberate insult to the system of parliamentary democracy. In these circumstances, I have no option but to decline your invitation,” Mr Chowdhury said.
The nine-member committee will check whether the amendments to the Constitution would need ratification by the states, according to the government’s gazette notification today.
The committee will analyse and recommend possible solutions linked to simultaneous elections if there is a hung house, no-confidence motion, defection, or any such other event.
A single electoral roll and identity card for voters valid for the national, state, civic body and panchayat elections will be explored, the government said in the notification.
The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have spoken on the need for ‘One Nation, One Election’ on several occasions, and it was also a part of the party’s manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.