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NEW DELHI: The opposition does not appear keen on Prime Minister Narendra
Modi’s proposal for simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls+
, suspecting that this might be a bid to make the entire exercise a presidential-style campaign that could subdue incumbency.
Apart from constitutional issues raised by former finance minister P Chidambaram and the hurdles of assemblies that will have a significant part of their terms to run by the time the Lok Sabha elections are due in April-May, 2019, opposition leaders feel that the move can deliver an advantage to BJP.
There is a view that simultaneous polls will subdue incumbencies in states where BJP is in office and give Modi an overarching theme to campaign on. He could be seen as a leader seeking to do away with the malaise of frequent elections and disruptions in governance.
BJP leaders have pointed out that the next Lok Sabha election is going to be a referendum on Modi and the NDA government, irrespective of whether it is clubbed with state polls. They also point out that local issues cannot be swept away, and parties like BJD have succeeded even though the Odisha electoral cycle is tied in with the national election.
The opposition, wary of the PM’s capacity to campaign hard and relentlessly attack his rivals, is concerned that simultaneous elections will make Modi’s poll pitch more effective. If he has to campaign separately for assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh before the Lok Sabha election, issues would be more clearly related to local aspirations and disappointments. Barring Rajasthan, the other two large states have returned BJP governments thrice. Congress is hopeful of making gains in these states but its managers will keep in mind Modi’s success in mobilising the voters in the second phase of the Gujarat election after the first did not provide BJP the traction it hoped for. A simultaneous poll, feel opposition leaders, will amplify Modi’s and BJP’s strengths.
BJP can bring forward the Lok Sabha election to time with the assembly polls in the three states and Mizoram that are due in November-December this year. Though the ruling party has given no hint of its plans, this possibility does worry the opposition and it would mean a rapid shift in gears. BJP is keen to avoid the crash and burn of 2004 when the decision to call early polls went badly wrong. But the possibility remains alive as BJP under Modi has shown the ability to keep its opponents off balance.