LS polls: Long elections put Opposition parties at disadvantage, says Yechury

CPI(M) general secretary said with technological advances the time taken for conducting polls should go down

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury (photo: National Herald Archives)
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury (photo: National Herald Archives)


With the 2024 Lok Sabha polls being the second longest elections ever held in India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said it puts the Opposition parties in a disadvantageous position.

In an interview to PTI, while stating that the Election Commission has the right to take a decision on the election dates, he questioned the wisdom behind it.

Asked about the 82-day duration of the general elections -- the process of which started on 16 March with the announcement of the polls and will conclude on 4 June when the results are announced -- he said it is a “matter of concern”.

"It is a matter of concern. We recognise and accept that the Constitution gives the entire right, the sole right to the Election Commission on these matters. And they are the only ones who are mandated by the Constitution of India. So they have the right,” Yechury said. “But we question the wisdom of it.” he told PTI.

Yechury, whose party CPI(M) is a part of the Opposition's INDIA bloc, said with technological advances the time taken for conducting polls should go down. Instead, it has increased, he added.

"I mean you see now with such a long election, except for 1952, and those were the birth pangs of India's parliamentary democracy, the first election. So lots of things have to be adjusted… Except for that, this is the longest election you are having. And with all this technology they are talking about, with all this, in fact it should be shortened. Instead, it's lengthened,” he said.

While stressing that the opposition does not have a level playing field in the upcoming polls in terms of money, or reach, he said the long duration also puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to physical campaigning.

"Now what does it do? It gives an advantage to the ruling party. That they can move, the leaders can move from one to another phase and continue campaigning. Whereas earlier, you could campaign and then the campaigning stops and then the voting takes place,” he said.

“What happens here is that there is polling going on in one phase and campaigning going on in another phase. And the campaigning… prime minister and the ruling party leaders, what they are saying in some other places is directly beamed to the places where the polling is going on.

"Is that not a violation? For 48 hours, you say you stop all the campaigning but then it's clearly violated. So these sorts of schedules permit that,” he said.

Secondly, he said, in states where the BJP is weak and where they do not have enough cadre, the seven phases give them the opportunity to move the cadre, one phase after another. All this gives an in-built advantage to the ruling party, he said.

“That's unfortunate. There should be a level playing field. It's not there in terms of money power It's not there, therefore, in terms of advertisements and the outreach to the people. And now even in terms of physical campaigning, it is not there,” the CPI(M) leader said.

The voting period for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls is spread over 44 days, and would be the second longest after the first parliamentary elections of 1951-52 that lasted for more than four months.

The Lok Sabha polls will be held in seven phases beginning from April 19 and the counting of votes will take place on June 4 for the world's biggest election exercise.

During the press conference to announce the poll schedule, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said the election dates are decided based on factors like the geography of regions, public holidays, festivals and examinations.

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