One Nation, One Poll: Nitish Kumar 'ideologically' favours simultaneous elections, but says execution not possible for 2019

A day after Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah wrote to the Law Commission advocating the 'One Nation, One Poll' plan, BJP ally and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said that simultaneous elections in 2019 would not be possible. The Janata Dal (United) chief echoed the statement made by Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat, who said that there were not enough VVPAT machines to implement the plan.

ANI reported that Nitish agreed with holding simultaneous elections on a theoritical level, but said that it would not be possible to implement such a major change before 2019, when the next Lok Sabha elections are due.

Shah wrote to the Law Commission of India on Monday and suggested that in a progressive democracy such as India, holding separate elections each year strained the resources of the state. He wrote that during elections, when the Model Code of Conduct is enforced, development works and policy decisions have to be stopped till the poll is over.

File photo of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

File photo of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

This was not the first time when Nitish had differed in opinion with his larger coalition partner. In fact, in the already chequered history of BJP-JD(U) coalition in Bihar, both BJP and JD(U) have ironed out differences on several aspects, including the trouble over seat sharing as they recently decided to continue their alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The decision, which was announced on 8 August, was seen as a major boost for the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Financial Express reported.

Seat sharing for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections

In July 2018, the BJP-JD(U) coalition hit a roadblock over the distribution of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar among the constituents of the NDA.  BJP had reportedly offered only eight or nine seats to the ruling party in Bihar, an offer unacceptable for JD(U) in its bastion. Livemint quoted a senior JD(U) leader as saying that it was "not acceptable". He added that at least 15 seats should have been allotted.

The tussle within the NDA started because none of the junior alliance partners in Bihar was willing to relinquish their seats to accommodate the JD(U), which is the latest entrant to the coalition.

JD(U)'s demand for a special category status for Bihar

Another flashpoint emerged when the JD(U) decided to intensify its demand for a special category status for Bihar in May this year. He released a two-page statement asking the Finance Commission to consider granting the special status to Bihar, which he said was disadvantaged when resource-rich areas went to the newly formed Jharkhand state. He also stressed that Bihar had been historically backward and needed special assistance from the Centre to improve its financial state. However, the BJP has remained mum on the issue, as similar demands from Telegu Desam Party has lost it another alliance partner in Andhra Pradesh.

Nitish's flip-flop on demonetisation

In November 2016, Nitish favoured the move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency, when he was still part of the Opposition alliance. However, in May 2018, after he joined the BJP to form a government in Bihar, he questioned the policy asking that how many people had actually benefitted from the note ban. In an indirect reference to recent scams like the Punjab National Bank fraud, Nitish said that big defaulters were able to obtain huge loans and escape from the country, while the poor had to face stringent recovery steps.

The BJP and JD(U) have also had a turbulent past even before 2014, with Nitish and Narendra Modi sharing a bitter past. As administrators of two different states, the duo managed to keep their differences aside and Nitish successfully pulled a 17-year-long alliance with the NDA. However, things changed when Modi was elevated to be the prime ministerial candidate. With all that safely in past now, neither of the partners would want to bring up those differences with the next general elections just around the corner. For the BJP, Bihar is crucial its 2019 plans, but for Nitish it will be a referendum of sorts on his decision to quit Mahagathbandhan, a pre-poll alliance, and realign with the BJP.

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Updated Date: Aug 14, 2018 17:07:46 IST

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