Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday pitched for shorter election period as the long-drawn process takes a toll on political leaders.
Chidambaram, who normally has his daggers drawn at the BJP, found himself on the same page as Opposition leader Prakash Javadekar who concurred with his suggestion of a shorter version of the polls. The Left and the JD-U, however, questioned the timing of the finance minister’s remark.
“I would like the elections to be compressed. It is possible to compress the election process to three to four weeks,” Chidambaram told a press conference.
The Lok Sabha elections, conducted in nine phases, were announced on March 5, with the results to be declared on May 16. The entire exercise is spread over 72 days. “With better communication, better transport facilities and better infrastructure, it is possible to compress the election process,” Chidambaram said.
BJP spokesperson Javadekar also said, “The Election Commission should consider this suggestion. Everybody would like to conclude polls in three weeks.”
CPI leader D Raja said that Chidambaram was expressing his opinion when only one phase was left, adding that the finance minister is not the only one who wanted the elections to be completed in a shorter duration.
JD(U) general secretary, Javed Raza, was of the view that these kinds of statements were meant to show the Election Commission in poor light. “Had the commission provided all the resources, including paramilitary forces, it could have done it in one phase. We are a big democracy and it has obviously been difficult for the EC to conduct free and fair poll. But it has tried to do its best,” he said.
Clearing the air on the issue, former chief election commissioner S Y Qureshi, stated, “The long-drawn, multi-phased election in India boils down to a single reason — security.” He told a TV interviewer that the EC is forced to deploy central paramilitary forces. “These forces have been freed from their duties and moved all around the country to ensure peace. That is why it takes time.” These forces are drawn from security forces who guard borders, industrial installations and railway properties, among other things.
The model code of conduct comes into force on the day the elections are announced, thus bringing the functioning of the government to a grinding halt. The code bars the ruling party from taking any action that would disturb the “level-playing field” required for the elections. The poll watchdog had asked the government to defer doubling of natural gas prices from April 1 and the implementation of a moratorium on interest payments on education loans until completion of the elections. The appointment of the Army Chief has also been referred to the Election Commission, which is yet to take a decision.