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Congress Accuse Assam CM of Trying to Derail Rahul Gandhi Yatra, Oppose “Undemocratic” One Nation, One Election Move

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 19: The Congress has accused the Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma of trying to derail the Rahul Gandhi-led “Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra” on being rattled by the people’s massive response in the state.

The party’s general secretary Jairam Ramesh while levelling the charge, however, asserted that the Yatra would continue with its itinerary in the State for another six days as scheduled. “It is abundantly clear that the Assam CM is rattled and is nervous by the tremendous response being received by the Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra over the past 2 days in Assam,” he posted on X as the entourage reached Majuli island.

He said people from all sections of Assam’s diverse society and age groups have been “enthusiastically welcoming” Mr Gandhi. “The Assam CM can abuse and defame, he can threaten and intimidate but we are not afraid. He is obviously disturbed by the huge impact of the Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra, which will continue in Assam for another 6 days in spite of his continuing efforts to derail it,” he added.

Along with the post, he also shared Mr Sarma’s comment that Congress was representing one section of Muslims, and that even Muslim women don’t come to Congress rallies due to the progress they made under the BJP-led government in the state. Mr Sarma had made the comment on Thursday while speaking to the press.

The Assam Police, meanwhile, registered a suo motu FIR against the Yatra and its chief organiser KB Byju for allegedly deviating from its permitted route in Jorhat town on Thursday. The Yatra commenced from Manipur on January 14 and will culminate on March 20 or 21 in Mumbai after covering 6,713 km in 67 days while passing through 110 districts in 15 states. In Assam, it will continue till January 25, travelling 833 km across 17 districts.

Meanwhile, the Congress on Friday opposed what it called the “undemocratic” idea of holding simultaneous polls – referring to the BJP’s push for the ‘one nation one election’ system – and criticised the idea as one that goes against federalism and the Constitution’s basic structure.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge called for disbanding the committee that is studying whether the ‘one nation one election’ system can be applied in a nation of 140 crore people. “The Indian National Congress is strongly opposed to the very idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’. For the sake of maintaining a thriving and a robust democracy, it is imperative that the entire idea must be abandoned and the high-powered committee dissolved,” Mr Kharge said in a letter to Niten Chandra, the secretary of the committee headed by the former President Ram Nath Kovind.

Mr Kharge in the letter also requested the former President “not to allow his persona and the office of the former President of India to be abused by the Union government to subvert the Constitution and parliamentary democracy in this country.”

The Central government constituted the high-level eight-member committee, headed by Mr Kovind last year. On October 18, it had written to six national parties and 33 state parties asking for their suggestions on holding simultaneous three-tier elections to the Lok Sabha, state assemblies and local bodies. The panel is planning to submit its report, which is in the final stages, to the Union government before the coming Lok Sabha elections are announced. In Friday’s letter, Congress chief Kharge alleged that the committee seems to have “already made up its mind and seeking a consultation seems to be an eyewash.”

“The government, parliament and ECI (Election Commission of India) should work together to ensure the people’s mandate is respected rather than divert people’s attention by talking about undemocratic ideas like simultaneous elections,” Mr Kharge said.

He alleged the composition of the committee is “biased”. The committee was formed without discussion with Opposition parties that are in power in many states, Mr Kharge said, adding these states will be affected by the decisions taken by the committee.

“When the committee is headed by no less than the former President of India, it is distressing when even common voters feel the consultations of the committee are likely to be a pretence since minds have already been made up,” the Congress chief said.

Mr Kharge said he was “amused” to hear the argument that holding simultaneous elections will result in financial savings. He said the expenses on elections are less than 0.02 per cent of the total Union Budget for the preceding five years. “We feel the people will be willing to consider this small amount as the cost of free and fair elections to uphold democracy,” Mr Kharge said.

Pointing out that the expenditure on 2014 elections was ₹3,870 crores which the committee claims was high, Mr Kharge said, “If the committee, the government and ECI are serious about the expenditure made on elections, it would be more appropriate if they could make the funding process more transparent, especially in the matter of electoral bonds. This would truly empower the voter and increase voter awareness.”

The government’s website on ‘one nation one election’ said the national and state elections were mostly held simultaneously from 1951-52 to 1967, after which this cycle got broken and now, elections are held almost every year and within a year too at different times, which result in massive expenditure by the government and other stakeholders, diversion of security forces and other electoral officers engaged in such elections from their primary duties for significantly prolonged periods, and disruption in developmental work on account of prolonged application of model code of conduct, etc.

The ‘one nation one election’ committee’s terms of reference includes checking whether the amendments to the Constitution needed for simultaneous elections would need ratification by the states.

 

 

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