Simultaneous polls impractical: Pranab on Mamata’s proposal

Sunday, January 9, 2011

KOLKATA - Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee Sunday proposed simultaneous elections to parliament and the state assemblies to cut costs, but Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee termed this impractical.

Speaking at a seminar on electoral reforms at the National University of Jurisdical Sciences, the minister said the West Bengal assembly elections will be “very challenging” for the election commission as it was “an exceptional state”.

“There has been no change of power in the state for the last 35 years. Already the state is grappling with violence and bloodshed. The election commission has to ensure free and fair elections,” she said.

She also argued that the election commission should be made self-sufficient and its infrastructure strengthened in all the states so that it will not have to depend upon the state government.

“Election is a cumbersome affair. All through the year elections of some kind or the other occur. People are disgusted. Elections should be made a one-time affair,” Banerjee said.

Speaking at the seminar Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Banerjee’s idea of holding one-time elections was not a practical proposition.

“Majority of frequent elections takes place because of fractured mandate. What will happen if the Lok Sabha and assembly elections are held simultaneously and a state comes up with fractured mandate? Will there be president’s rule there for the next four years,” Mukherjee asked.

“Election is not merely selection. The formation of government is a very important part of the electoral process. Synchornising is a practical problem that we will face in conducting simultaneous elections,” he added.

Mukherjee quipped that he will be very happy as a finance minister if the expenditure incurred by conducting frequent elections can be brought down, but the Election Commission does not have the infrastructure to conduct simultaneous elections all over the country with 700 million electors.

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