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President echoes PM Modi's idea, says simultaneous LS and state polls can reduce costs

Simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies can help reduce difficulties in terms of expenditure and management, President Pranab Mukherjee said today and asked the Election Commission to take the initiative in bringing political parties on one platform to discuss the issue.

“If political parties arrive at a consensus to make amendment to the Constitution and if the initiative is taken by the Election Commission, as they have earned the reputation of impartiality…I do believe that if political parties seriously agree on this issue with the help of EC, it may be possible,” he said. Mukherjee was addressing the National Voters Day here to mark the establishment of the Commission this day in 1950.

He said simultaneous polls can “remove lot of inconvenience both in terms of expenditure and management.” BJP veteran L K Advani, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Mukherjee have supported this idea in the past.

After the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law supported simultaneous polls in its December, 2015 report, the government had sought the views of EC in this regard. The Commission had made it clear that it would need nearly Rs 10 thousand crore, more EVMs and more security personnel for the massive exercise. It had also pointed to the amendments the Constitution would require for the purpose.

Noting that the Indian voter has shown “maturity” on occasions refusing to give a fractured mandate during Lok Sabha polls, President Pranab Mukherjee said in 1984 and 2014, governments with an absolute majority ruled the country. He hailed the role of the Election Commission in helping the voters and providing them with the necessary infrastructure to come out and vote in large numbers.

He noted that in the 2014 general elections, 66 per cent of the voters used their franchise, the highest ever. His remarks appreciating the role of the Commission in voter awareness comes against the backdrop of some politicians claiming that the EC has overstepped its mandate of election management by getting into the realm of voter awareness and education.

Mukherjee said despite having a small set up at Nirvachan Sadan here — the EC headquarters — the Commission has in the past held elections in trying circumstances. He said it takes the help of the bureaucracy and teachers in the state told elections.

In his address, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said, in 2016, the Commission reignited public and political debate on the issue of long pending electoral reforms by releasing in public domain, a compendium of all pending reform proposals including the recent ones. He said last year, the poll panel enrolled 1.32 crore voters on its registry. The electoral roll is considerably purified. About 3.5 million voters have been removed from the roll due to various reasons. New citizens in recently exchanged enclaves between India and Bangladesh for the first time joined the electoral process. The oldest voter Mohd Asghar Ali (104) got to vote for the first time in his entire life time, Zaidi said. Ali passed away recently.