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As Congress skips PM Modi's all-party meet, Milind Deora calla for debate on 'one nation, one election'

June 19 (AZINS) Taking a line different from the party leadership, Congress leader Milind Deora on Wednesday appeared to be supporting the idea of holding simultaneous polls in the country as called for a debate on the issue.

The Mumbai Congress president said that the idea of 'One Nation, One Election' should be given a consideration, even as his party skipped the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue.

Modi had invited the heads of all political parties which have at least one member either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha for the meeting to discuss several issues, including the "one nation, one election" idea, celebration of 75 years of Independence in 2022 and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year.

In the meeting, Modi announced that he will constitute a committee which will give suggestions on the issue. Congress president Rahul Gandhi was among some leaders who skipped the meeting. 

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Deora said being in continuous election mode is a roadblock to good governance and distracts politicians from addressing real issues.

Terming 'one nation, one election' an "important and valuable reform", he said the government should decide on it by taking all political parties on board and seeking opinions of the intelligentsia, organisations working on electoral reforms and students.

"It is unfortunate that India's political class, which I am a part of, is fast forgetting the art of debate, discussion and engagement. This, in my opinion, is a grave threat to India's democratic nature," Deora said in the statement.

He said he is yet to come across evidence, which suggests that if elections to the state assemblies are held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls, it will help the party that is in power nationally.

"Only recently, along with the Lok Sabha elections, the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh elected members to their respective Vidhan Sabhas. Two out of the three states elected parties that are not even in an alliance with the BJP," he said.

India's 70-year electoral journey has taught us that the Indian voter is aware, informed and can differentiate between state and central elections. Our democracy is neither fragile nor immature and the debate of one nation - one poll calls for an open mind on either side of the spectrum, Deora said.

"We must not forget that until 1967, India conducted simultaneous polls," he added.

"As a former MP and someone who has contested four elections, I believe that being in continuous election mode is a roadblock to good governance, distracts politicians from addressing real issues and adds populism to the character of governance, which is not necessarily a long-term solution to some of the gravest problems Indians face," the former Union minister said.

However, the argument about elections straining our exchequer is uncalled for as we should be ready to keep our democracy thriving at any cost. India needs to outline a singular agenda for its social and economic growth, he said.

The skepticism of political parties should not be ridiculed, instead, the government must continue to attempt to build consensus, Deora said, adding that it must also refrain from seeking to implement such an important and valuable reform without taking all parties on board. This is not an ordinary reform as it will have a long-lasting impact on politics and governance.

The government should also invite Indian intelligentsia, academics, organisations working on electoral reforms and students to collectively provide their perspectives on this issue, he said.

In the last few years, we have seen partisan politics dictating matters that critically impact our democracy. This lack of bipartisanship is hurting India's prospects and preventing it from freeing itself from the clutches of archaic precedents and systems, according to the Congress leader, in India, bold ideas rarely get bipartisan support.

"BJP paid a price for opposing the Civilian Nuclear Agreement. Similarly, I am confident that friends in the opposition will show pragmatism, objectivity and far- sightedness when dealing with this issue," he said. 

(With PTI inputs)

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