New Delhi: Describing the debate on holding Lok Sabha and assembly polls together a healthy sign for democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said it was an appropriate tribute to former premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee who changed the country’s political culture.
He said efforts were afoot and discussions being held about simultaneously holding Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
“The government and the opposition – both are putting forth their view points. This is a good development and a healthy sign for our democracy.
“I must say that developing healthy traditions for a sound democracy, making constant efforts to strengthen democracy, encouraging open-minded debates would also be an appropriate tribute to Atalji,” Modi said in his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address.
Political parties are divided on the issue of simultaneous polls.
BJP, its NDA partners Shiromani Akali Dal, AIADMK, Samajwadi Party and Telangana Rashtra Samiti have supported it.
The Congress, Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, DMK, Telugu Desam Party, Left parties and the JD(S) have opposed the proposal.
The parties have given their response to the Law Commission, which is set to come out with a legal framework required to hold the mammoth exercise.
Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat had recently said there are no chances of holding the two polls together without a legal framework. “Koi chance nahi,” he had said.
“The lawmakers will take at least a year to frame a law that can be enforceable…,” Rawat had said.
If simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies are held in 2019, the EC will require nearly 24 lakh EVMs, double the number required to hold only the Parliamentary polls.
During their discussion with the Law Commission on May 16 this year on the issue of holding simultaneous polls, EC officials had said they would need around Rs 4,500 crore to buy nearly 12 lakh additional electronic voting machines (EVMs) and an equal number voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines.
In his address, the prime minister said the country will remain grateful to Vajpayee for bringing good governance into the main stream.
“But, I just want to touch upon one more facet of Atalji’s legendary personality and that is the political culture which Atalji gave to India, his efforts in the direction of bringing about the changes in our political culture, his efforts to mould it into an organised framework and which proved very beneficial for India and a bigger benefit will accrue in days to come,” Modi said.
He said the 91st constitutional amendment law brought in 2003 restricted the size of cabinets in states to 15 per cent of the total seats in the legislative assembly.
“For many years in India, the political culture of forming a very large cabinet was being misused to constitute jumbo cabinets not only to create a divide, but also to appease political leaders. Atalji changed it. “This effort of his resulted in saving of money as well as of resources. This also helped in improving efficiency,” Modi said.
He said the constitutional amendment also ensured that the limit under the anti-defection law was enhanced from one-thirds to two-thirds. “Besides, clear guidelines were defined to disqualify the defector,” the prime minister said.
Describing Vajpayee as a “true patriot,” he said it was during his tenure that the timing of presenting the budget was changed from 5 pm to 11 am.
Earlier, as was the British tradition, the Budget used to be presented at 5 pm because in London, Parliament used to start working at that time.
In 2001, the Vajpayee government changed the time of presenting the budget to 11 am.
He said the framing of the Flag Code in 2002 was another “freedom” for India as it brought the national flag closer to the masses.
“A number of such rules have been included in this code which made it possible to unfurl the tricolour in public places. This provided a chance to more and more of our countrymen to unfurl our national flag. Thus, he brought our beloved tricolour closer to the common man,” Modi said.