In national interest, Modi and Shah want us to believe, the country should have one election. It comes as no surprise. Because ‘One nation-one election- one language-one people’ is what the RSS and BJP have propagated for years. It is a different matter that wags have added ‘one candidate’ and ‘one enemy’ to the list. It is not Rocket Science to realise that the enemy . It is not Rocket Science to discern that the enemy are the anti-national Muslims aided by the Tukde-Tukde Gang from Delhi’s Khan Market.
But it did come as a surprise because with the country facing its worst economic crisis in a decade and the worst water crisis ever, the economy slowing down and investment falling, Modi-Shah duo would accord such high priority to ‘one nation-one election’ agenda so soon after their thumping victory in the general election. Why, they convened the all party meeting even before all the elected members of the Lok Sabha had been administered the oath.
Most prominent Opposition parties boycotted the all party meeting the Prime Minister called on June 19 to throw open his proposal to alter the constitutional arrangement in respect of the life and tenure of the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
The Communists alone from the opposition attended this meeting while the other 21 parties were all BJP allies like the Janata Dal-United of Nitish Kumar or the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) of K Chandra Shekhar Rao or Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK or Andhrfa Pradesh’s YSRCP of Jagan Mohan Reddy or even Naveen Patnaik led BJD. These parties are either formal constituents of the NDA or lean towards the BJP.
As for the CPM its leader Sitaram Yechury’s letter to the Prime Minister on the subject is very different from what Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made us believe after the meeting while saying that “no one opposed the idea itself, the CPI and CPI(M) merely questioned how it can be done.”
But in the letter that he released in the public domain, the CPI(M) general secretary said exactly the opposite and declared quite clearly that, “Apart from the technical issues involved in the holding of the simultaneous elections to the Parliament and state Assemblies, our opposition to this is based on the fact that it is fundamentally anti-federal, anti-democratic and strikes at the root of the parliamentary democratic system, as ordained in the Constitution.”
“Holding the Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections together would require tampering with the Constitutional scheme of accountability of the government to the legislature. Article 75 (3) states that the collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers is to the House of the People. Similarly, Article 164 (1) concerning the Council of Ministers states that it is collectively responsible to the legislative assembly of the state, the letter said adding that “There is no fixity of tenure enshrined in the Constitution either for the Lok Sabha, or, for the state legislatures. Both Article 83 (2) and Article 172 (1) specify that the term of the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assembly will be for five years unless sooner dissolved,” pointed out Yechury in his letter.
It’s not as if the Prime Minister or his counsel are not aware of the constitutional impediments in trying to steamroll simultaneous polls. But the idea appears driven by the desire to channel the nation’s discourse to what the RSS believes is right for us. They are in no hurry as long as the issue continues to be debated in public and as long as the Modi-Shah duo come across as reasonable men concerned at the colossal expenditure and time allegedly spent on elections. They are clearly confident that over time, most Indians will be won over to think on similar lines.
In the early 1950s when the RSS launched its political wing the Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh under the leadership of Hindu Mahasabha leader Shyama Prasad Mukherjee his first foray into street politics was the march and unfortunately the last (for he died of heart attack in custody) to Kashmir on the slogan of Ek, Nishan (flag) Ek Pradhan (Prime Minister), Ek Samvidhan (Constitution).
But that was to oppose the annexation of the only Muslim majority state in British India which opted not to go with Pakistan, not just at the instance of its ruler Maharaja Hari Singh who signed the instrument of accession with India but also the National Conference leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who representing the sentiments of Kashmiris who preferred not to go with Pakistan merely because Kashmir was a Muslim majority territory, but on condition of maximum autonomy under Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which the Modi dispensation is equally determined to repudiate.
Unity in diversity has always been an anathema to the Sangh and its various offshoots, all of whom follow the basic Sangh ideology. In that sense federalism like secularism is something to be wary of if not outrightly abhorred by the followers of Sangh.
In fact the RSS through its mouthpieces the Organiser and Panchjanya vehemently opposed the adoption of the Indian Constitution and the Indian tricolour flag writing that Bharatvarsh already has a book of laws enunciated by Manu in Manusmriti and that ‘Bhagwa (saffron) flag symbolised the real India.
The Sangh’s core belief is in a strong unitary Centre. It follows therefore that the concept of Federation evolving from the idea of unity in diversity underlined in the Indian Constitution is antithetical to Modi’s scheme of things.
But what amazes me is the readiness with which people like Ntish Kumar or Chandra Shekhar Rao of Telangana or even Udhav Thackeray of Maharashtra Shiv Sena or the Akali Dal from Punjab have meekly submitted to Modi’s diktat because at the end of the day it would erode completely the limited autonomy available to the states.
The BJP already runs the state governments in more than three fourths of Indian states and can easily ask its chief ministers to dissolve their assemblies and seek re-election along with the general elections to the Lok Sabha in 2024 or earlier if they choose.
But it is for the regional leaders who happily supported the idea, to realise that this is merely the first step in the direction of enforcing a unitary India where slowly these regional leaders, considerably weakened due to the rising spread of the BJP, will gradually become totally irrelevant to the political scenario of the country.