Congress must recall 1971 polls before criticising Modi govt on simultaneous elections to Parliament and state legislatures

The Congress' opposition to the NDA government's proposal to hold simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and the State legislative assemblies under the slogan ‘one nation, one election’ needs to be examined in the backdrop of its own past actions.

It needs to be recalled that from 1952 to 1967, when the fourth general elections were held, elections to the Lok Sabha and state legislatures had been simultaneously held. Accordingly, the next general elections were to be held in 1972 but mid term elections were held in 1971 itself. Further, while the term of the then (fifth) Lok sabha was to complete in 1976, the Congress had extended the term of the Lok Sabha by one year. Socialist leaders Madhu Limaye and Sharad Yadav, who were both imprisoned at the time, had resigned from the Lok Sabha in 1976, holding the extension of the term of the house to be unconstitutional.

Even accepting that the circumstances in 1976 were ‘exceptional’ as the nation was under emergency, this argument does not in any case hold for 1971, when no such extraordinary situation prevailed. It was felt at that time that the Indira government had desired to encash the goodwill generated by some of its far reaching decisions such as bank nationalisation and abolishing privy purses of erstwhile rulers.

File image of Indira Gandhi. Getty images

File image of Indira Gandhi. Getty images

Also, post the 1969 divide in the Congress party, the Indira Gandhi Government had lost its overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha and was dependent on the Communists for support, a situation which was not to the liking of Indira Gandhi.

Thus, the conduct of the polls for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies had been separated when elections to the Lok Sabha had been preponed in 1971.

When the then Janata government had taken similar action to abrogate the terms of legislative assemblies in 1977 on the ground that these governments had lost the mandate of the people, the Congress had strongly opposed the action. Yet, in 1980, when Indira Gandhi returned to power, the terms of offices of non-Congress ruled governments had been dissolved and elections held prior to completion of the term of those legislatures.

The present NDA government, significantly, did not adopt the same stance when it assumed power in 2014.

It was, therefore, in 1971 that the Congress had erred in separating the elections to the Lok Sabha and the state legislatures. Yet, the Congress' spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had contended that such simultaneous elections are against the spirit of democracy  and that the terms of both the Parliament and state legislative bodies are fixed. Surjewala conveniently overlooked the past actions of his own party that had resulted in the the very same ‘insult to democracy’ it is now accusing the NDA Government of. The objective of the proposal to hold simultaneous polls is to curtail the enormous expenditure in the conduct of elections, besides conserving the efforts of the state government machinery towards administration and development.

The Congress party has a good opportunity here to set right the mistake it made in 1971 and support the proposal of the union government. Regrettably, it seems to be opting for realpolitik over principles by its opposition to the proposal, for fear that simultaneous elections at the present time could result in setbacks for the party in some states in which it is presently in power.

This article has been translated from Hindi by Pallavi Rebbapragada. You can read the original article here.

Updated Date: Oct 16, 2017 15:55 PM

Also See