One Country One Nation Polls fundamentally flawed: CPI (M)

Apart from the technical issues involved in the holding of the simultaneouselections to the Parliament and state Assemblies, the CPI-M’s opposition to this concept of a ‘One Country One Election’ isbased on the fact that it is fundamentally anti-federal, anti-democratic andstrikes at the root of the parliamentary democratic system, as ordained inthe Constitution. 

Secondly, the Election Commissioners need to be appointed by a collegium and not the central government. Given the fact the in the recently conducted Lok Sabha polls, the office of the Election Commission has come under sever cloud, the  CPI(M) is of the firm opinion that the currentpractice of the government of the day appointing the Election Commissionersmust be replaced by these appointments being made by a collegium under thesanction of the President of India.  This is the procedure that has beenadopted for the appointment of the Lokpal by the Parliament.

Besides these key issues the party has also responded in detail to issues like the looming drought, unemployment, push towards privatisation and dilution of labour rights and protection in the name of ‘reform’. The CPI-M has also demanded early elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. (J&K). To enable the sovereign voice of the Indian people to be adequately heard through their representatives in Parliament, the house must sit for at least 100 days a year. Besides the women’s reservation bill should be passed forthwith.

In this note, the CPI-M has stated that, at the outset, it needs to be stressed that the elections were indeedsimultaneous after we adopted our Constitution.  However, elections to thestate Assemblies got detached from the general elections due to thearbitrary misuse of Article 356 by the Central government, then under the Indian National Congress(INC).  This processbegan with the dismissal of the Communist Ministry in Kerala in 1959.

The CPI-M has responded to several key issues raised by prime minister, Narendra Modi with the Opposition parties at the onset of this on-going, session of parliament. The note was presented at the meeting held today.

Elaborating this point, the CPI-M has stated that holding the Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections together would requiretampering with the Constitutional scheme of accountability of the governmentto the legislature.   

Article 75(3) of the Indian Constitution states clearly that the collectiveresponsibility of the Council of Ministers is to the House of the People, the Lok Sabha. Similarly, Article 164 (1) concerning the Council of Ministers states thatit is collectively responsible to the legislative assembly of the state. 

Under the Constitution, if a government loses the confidence of thelegislature either by being voted out on a no-confidence motion, or, losinga vote on a Money Bill, it is bound to resign. If no alternative governmentcan be formed, the House is dissolved and a mid-term election held. 

There is no fixity of tenure enshrined in the Constitution either for theLok Sabha, or,  for the state legislatures.  Both Articles, be it  83 (2) and Article172 (1) specify that the term of the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblywill be for five years “unless sooner dissolved”. 

Any attempt to prolong the life of the Lok Sabha, or, legislature will notonly be unconstitutional but also anti-democratic.  It is the will of thepeople through their elected representatives that must prevail. 

In order to bring about simultaneous elections, various suggestions weremade to amend the Constitution. One of the suggestions made by a discussionpaper released by the Niti Aayog is that if the dissolution of the Lok Sabhacannot be avoided and the remainder of the term of the Lok Sabha is notlong, then  a provision can be made for the President to carry out the
administration of the country, on the aid and advice of a Council ofMinisters to be appointed by him/her till the next House is constituted.This outrageous proposal would make the President head the executive.  Thisis bringing an executive Presidency through the back door. 

The other suggestion is that if, at the time of the dissolution of theHouse, the remaining period is long, then fresh elections would be held andthe term of the House would be only for the rest of the remaining period,i.e., if the dissolution of the House takes place say after two years of its
term, then, the subsequent election will be held for a three year term.  So,actually, there will be more frequent Lok Sabha elections, which defeats thepurpose, for which simultaneous elections are being advocated. 

The other casualty of the efforts to straightjacket simultaneous electionswill be federalism.  One of the proposals for aligning the Lok Sabha andstate Assembly elections made by the 79th Report of the ParliamentaryStanding Committee, 2015 and the Niti Aayog  paper is to extend the life ofsome of the assemblies, or, shorten the tenure of some in a phased manner.

Both the reduction of the tenure of the assembly, or, its extension are anassault on the rights of the states and circumscribes the rights of citizensto elect their legislators. 

Another suggestion in the case of state legislatures is that if such a dissolutiontakes place after the major part of the term is over, the Governor could runthe state for the rest of the term of the House. This, again, would meanCentral rule.

Various proposals are put forth to circumvent the accountability of thelegislature and to ensure fixity of tenure of the House. One of theproposals mooted, including in the Draft Working Paper of the Law Commissionof India, is that when a no-confidence motion is moved, it must beaccompanied by a motion to elect a new leader of the House. This means thatthe right of the legislators to vote out a government is circumscribed andconditional to their electing a new government. 

The right of elected legislators and members of the Lok Sabha to vote outany government cannot be circumscribed, nor can the right of a ruling partywhich has a stable majority in the House to recommend dissolution of theHouse and hold early elections also be curtailed. 

In the name of ensuring simultaneity of elections, all these proposals wouldenhance the role of the Governor and Central intervention. 

India is a vast country with myriad diversities and only a federal set-upcan sustain political democracy. Having elections in states at differenttimes is one aspect of the federal system. 

Hence the CPI-M has clearly stated that the party is totally opposed to any artificial attempt to bring aboutsimultaneous elections which can only be done by trampling upon the existing
Constitutional scheme of parliamentary democracy.

Role of the Election Commission and Electoral Reforms
The Indian Constitution mandates the Election Commission alone theresponsibility to conduct a free and fair election. During the course of the17th general elections, the role of the Election Commission has come under asevere dark shadow. The neutrality and impartiality of the ElectionCommission has been widely questioned.

Given this experience, the CPI(M) is of the firm opinion that the currentpractice of the government of the day appointing the Election Commissionersmust be replaced by these appointments being made by a collegium under thesanction of the President of India.  This is the procedure that has beenadopted for the appointment of the Lokpal by the Parliament.

The CPI (M) is of the opinion that far reaching thorough electoral reformsare required in order to strengthen democracy in the country.

EVMs: Questioning the credibility of the electoral process widespreadinconsistencies with the use of Electronic Voting Machines have surfaced.  Aparliamentary legislation must ensure that at least 50 per cent of thevotes counted by the EVMs are matched with the VVPAT.  Further, alltechnical objections that arise from the fact that technology is growing ata pace faster than human capacities to adopt to it will have to be resolved.Hence there is a need to re-examine the credibility of the EVMs andverifiability of the VVPATs.

Money Power: These elections have seen the humongous growth of money power.

This distorts reasoned opinion formation by the voter which is the backboneof an informed democracy.  Laws must be enacted to curb such use of moneypower.  This should begin by banning the electoral bond scheme which wassmuggled in the Finance Bill before the Parliament ignoring the oppositionto this scheme at that stage. The Rajya Sabha’s consideration was bypassedsince the Finance Bill is a `Money Bill’.

Corporate funding of political parties should be banned and we should movetowards a system of State funding.

Partial Proportional Representation: No government at the Centre in India,after we adopted our Constitution, has ever had the support of over 50 percent of the votes polled.  Many countries elect their governments on thebasis of 50 per cent plus support of the entire electorate not only of thosewho have voted. Democracy, by definition, is the rule of the majority. In order to ensure that such a democracy is properly established, the countrymust seriously consider a partial proportional representation system.

There are many other issues that need to be addressed.  The CPI(M) has urged thegovernment to immediately set-up a parliamentary mechanism to suggestdeep-rooted electoral reforms. 
The CPI(M) is of the considered opinion that such reforms are necessary torestore the strength and integrity of our democracy.

II.  Economy: Issues that Need to be Urgently Resolved

1. Alarming Drought Situation
According to the Drought Early Warning System, a real time droughtmonitoring platform, as of May 30, 2019, more than 43.4 per cent of thecountry was reeling under drought.  Failed monsoons are the primary reason. The north-east monsoon was deficient by 44 per cent in 2018.  On top ofthis, the pre-monsoon rainfall (March 1 to May 31, 2019) was the lowest in65 years.

According to the Central Water Commission, water levels in India’s 91 majorreservoirs plummeted to 20 per cent of their storage capacity by May 30,2019.  This is less than the average levels in the past decade. Worse isthat the south-west monsoon, which provides 80 per cent of our rainfall, hasbeen forecast to be delayed and below normal this year. 

The Central government must, in consultation with the state governments,take appropriate measures on a war footing to tackle this drought situation,in particular, and deepening agrarian distress, in general. 

2. Growing Unemployment
Official employment data, kept under wraps during the course of the electioncampaign, has now been released to show that unemployment levels are thehighest in the last five decades.

Urgent measures to generate employment need to be undertaken. During thattime, all registered unemployed must be paid an unemployment allowance whichshould be above subsistence needs.

3.  Privatisation
Reports indicate that the government is proceeding on a plan for large-scaleprivatisation. This will only compound the unemployment situation evenfurther. More importantly, this is akin to selling family silver to meet thedaily expenditures.  All blue chip public sector companies and those whichare profitable today must not be privatized. Efforts must be made to turn around those public sector units who are incurring losses.

We are opposed to the current drive of large-scale privatisation of therailways, which is the running thread that unites our country and itspeople. 

4. Labour Laws
Reports suggest radical changes in the labour laws are in the offing. Thiswill only increase the levels of insecurity of the working class.  TheIndian working class has earned its rights through struggles and legalizedthese rights even before India became independent.  These rights were
subsequently enshrined in our Constitution. Any attack to dilute theseprovisions will not be acceptable.

5. Stagnant/Declining Economy
The economic stagnation, decline in many areas, is adding to the alreadyheavy burdens imposed on the people.  The revival of the economy requiresthe growth of domestic demand.  This, in turn, can only be achieved throughhigher doses of public investment for building our much needed economic andsocial infrastructure.  The government must urgently draw up plans in this direction.

6. Data Credibility
The credibility of official data has come under a big question mark.  Thisneeds to be urgently corrected both for the sake of India’s internationalstanding as well as to assess the ground realities so necessary to take therequired policy measures. 

The government needs to appoint a committee/commission to rework the dataparameters and to restore credibility and faith in the statistics that arebeing provided.

III. `Sab Ka Vishwas’
The CPI (M) hopes that the government will seriously adhere to the PrimeMinister’s assertion, post-elections, of following a policy of `sab kasaath, sab ka vikas, sab ka vishwas’.

The experience of the last five years, however, offers no confidence to thepeople that this would be followed. The instances of the growth of privatearmies in the name of `cow protection’, `moral policing’ etc. have resultedin the most tragic deaths of the marginalized sections of our society. 

Aghast at the reports of incidents of mob lynching, the Supreme Court hadadvised the government to adopt a special law against mob lynching.  This,however, has nothappened.  This government must ensure that such a law isbrought into effect at the earliest. The spread of hatred, intolerance,terror and fear must be effectively prevented.

May we underline that the unity and integrity of India can be strengthenedonly by strengthening the bonds of commonality that run through ourimmensely rich diversity and not by seeking to impose uniformity -religious linguistic etc. – upon this diversity.  The CPI (M) hopes this government will adhere to this understanding.  This is essential for the building of a New India in the 75th year of ourIndependence, an issue that has been listed in the agenda for this meeting.

Social Upliftment
This government must legislate the Women’s Reservation Bill, which is a longpending promise before the country.

This government must seek to strengthen the laws and provisions regardingthe Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and desistfrom diluting them further.

With large-scale privatization of industries, education and health, it isimperative that reservations for the SCs, STs, OBCs and disabled must beextended to the private sector.

IV. Ways to Improve the Productivity of the Parliament
The Indian Constitution defines the centrality of the sovereignty of thepeople.  The preamble defines this most eloquently by stating, “We, thePeople of India” and “Do hereby Adopt, Enact and Give to ourselves thisConstitution”.  People exercise their sovereignty through their elected representatives who are accountable to the people and the Executive, or,Government that assumes office as a consequence of elections is, in turn,accountable to the legislature. 

Parliament is, therefore, the key link in the Constitutional Scheme ofThings.   The basic element to improve Parliament’s productivity is toensure that it meets more often.  The CPI (M) continues to adhere to itslongstanding proposal that, by law, the Indian Parliament must meet not lessthan a hundred days in a calendar year.

Before the beginning of every new year, the schedule for the Parliament sessions mustbeannounced.  This will ensure greater presence and participation of theMembers in parliamentary proceedings.  This will also ensure that theforeign tours of the Prime Minister and other Ministers, or, for thatmatter, visits by foreign dignitaries do not disturb the parliamentary proceedings, as these schedules can now be determined according to theannounced parliamentary schedule. 

The government of the day must ensure that the Parliament functions strictlyin accordance with its rules and that the presiding officers willmeticulously follow the Rule Book and subjective considerations will notprevail. The practice of arbitrarily defining which Bill is a `Money Bill’ currentlyresides with  the Speaker of the Lok Sabha under Article 110(3) of theConstitution.  Articles 110(1) and 110(2) elaborately define subjects thatqualify to be treated as a `Money Bill’ or not.  Ignoring 110(1) and 110(2)but invoking 110(3) arbitrarily must be stopped, if necessary, through aConstitutional amendment.  Both the Houses of the Parliament have theirequal role and responsibility in deciding on matters of public importance and legislations.

Functioning of Parliamentary Committees: More than participation in thesessions of Parliament, substantial work takes place in the ParliamentaryCommittees where Members meticulously dissect the proposed legislations. Theviewpoints of all stakeholders should be heard before finalizing thesuggestions/recommendations.  Of late, such committee functioning has beenweakened.  This must be corrected at the earliest. 

V. Combatting Terrorism
It is a matter of great concern that post-Pulwama/Balakot terrorist attackshave continued to mount. In the state of Jammu & Kashmir itself, at leastfour instances have been reported with more than 10 deaths and nearly ahundred injured.

The alienation of the people of Kashmir must be seriously addressed. Theelections to the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly must be held at the earliest.This would be an important way to restore people’s confidence in thedemocratic process.  If the conditions were conducive for the holding of Parliamentary elections, we see no reason for the Assembly elections not being held.

VI. Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary
The previous government had set-up a committee to work out the programmesfor this observation.  We consider this to be a major event that must beproperly observed. I was a Member of the previous committee.  The CPI (M)would cooperate with the government by offering our suggestions/opinions onthis matter. 

VII. Development of Aspirational Districts
115 aspirational districts have been identified by the Niti Aayog.  Theseinclude districts which were categorized in previous terminology as being”backward” districts. The five main themes chosen are health and nutrition,education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion and skilldevelopment and basic infrastructure.   The planned convergence of Central and state schemes will have to be done in consultation with the electedstate governments.  Likewise, the weightage given to each one of these fivethemes must be discussed with the state governments and a consensus arrivedat.

The aspirations of a district or an administrative unit at the local levelare best met through democratic decentralization of power to them.

Under India’s federal system, direct monitoring of district leveldevelopment by the Central government, bypassing the state governments, willnot be acceptable.As far as the weightages  that have been prescribed by the Niti Aayog areconcerned, we find the weightage for agriculture and water resources isbelow par.  This is true for skill development and basic infrastructure aswell.  These areas are important to ensure a healthy economic development providing a decent livelihood status for the people there. Failing to dothis results in incapability to restrict the unbridled growth of migrationto urban areas which expands urban slums and leads to the burgeoning ofurban poor.

The way forward suggested by the Niti Aayog is to entrust the conduct ofsurveys in these districts to the Tata Trusts and the Bill and Melinda GatesFoundation bypassing the elected state governments cannot be accepted.

It is not clear as to what would be the role of the elected stategovernments in the districts in their states and their involvement in theentire concept and implementation of the development of aspirationaldistricts.

(Note Submitted by CPI(M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury, to the meeting of the Heads of all Political Parties represented in Parliament onJune 19, 2019)



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