After the proposal of a simultaneous election in the country, the Election Commission has proposed one year one election.
As national and regional parties gear up for the election season, BJP has started pushing forward the need for simultaneous elections in the country. The proposal which was put forward in 2016 has started to gain momentum as we inch closer to the Lok Sabha elections. The proposal entailed that the whole country goes for elections in one year and simultaneously. Prime minister, Narendra Modi spoke, “At a ‘closed door’ meeting of the BJP’s national office bearers … just before the party’s national executive meet was kicked off … in laudatory terms for simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and state assemblies.” In spite of the meeting being ‘closed door’, the content was reported by The Hindu on March 31, 2016. The simultaneous elections, the BJP government believed would curb a lot of problems like every election being a costly affair and could save time and manual labour that is needed for contesting these elections.
While responding to PM’s suggestion, the Election Commission proposed One Year, One Election. The election commission also pointed out obvious setbacks in simultaneous elections that could possibly revolve around national issues and side-track issues of a particular state. The Commission further pointed out that politicians would stop worrying about regular elections where they will be held accountable for their work.
The idea behind simultaneous elections
BJP’s idea behind proposing simultaneous elections was to conduct nation-wide parallel Assembly and General election. This, they hoped could provide the government with stability which was also mentioned in the 117th report on Reform and Electoral Laws (1999) by the Law Commission of India. Along the same lines, they also hoped that the cost of elections which in the recent years has shot up to Rs 4500 crore could be cut down by a drastic margin. Thirdly, elections in states led to the imposition of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) puts on hold the entire development programme and activities. If all elections are held in one particular year, it will give a clear five years to the political parties to focus on good governance. Fourth, the continuous election has an impact on the functioning of essential services considering the rallies do cause traffic problems as well as loss of productivity. Lastly, the simultaneous election would reduce the type of manpower and resource deployment necessary for the conduct of elections.
Election commission retorted this by saying India has a multi-party democracy where elections are held for State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha separately. The voters are in a better position to express their voting choices keeping in mind the two different governments which they would be electing. This distinction gets distorted when voters are made to vote for electing two types of government at the same time, at the same polling booth, and on the same day.
The Election Commission asserted that Assembly elections are contested on local issues and, parties and leaders are judged on the basis of their work done in the state. Joining them with the general election could lead to a situation where the national narrative overshadows the regional story.
However, the biggest challenge to simultaneous polls lies in getting the party political consensus needed to bring an amendment in the law.
Proposal of One Year, One Election
The election commission while writing back to Narendra Modi on 24th April devised a plan B, on the lines of One Nation, One Election. The Election Commission suggested that all the elections that are to be held in one year should be contested in a span of a fixed time rather than being contested all year round. The Election Commission further added that with the implementation of One Year, One Election the incumbent government would be given the opportunity to complete its term since the time of completion of a term could be different in every state.
The EC wrote, clubbing elections that are scheduled in a year would be less stressful than holding simultaneous polls as it does not require five constitutional amendments.
The Law Commission had asked the poll panel to elucidate its position on five constitutional matters and 15 socio-political and economic questions that need to be addressed before simultaneous elections can be organised.
At present, the commission conducts elections at the same time for states where the term of Assemblies end within a few months of each other. Section 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, excludes it from informing elections more than six months before the term of a state assembly terminates. In 2017, the poll panel conducted the elections in five states – Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa – at the same time, and the elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later in the year since the terms of their Assemblies ended at different times.
Which way will the plan go?
The Narendra Modi government has been pushing for simultaneous elections, but not everyone is convinced it is a good idea.
“The party will welcome Election Commission’s any decision that makes the poll process easy. But One Year One Election poses several challenges- certain governments are short-lived, sometimes the mandate can be fractured. In such situations, there will be confusion. The party high command will discuss about this.” said a Congress spokesperson.
As the election fever reaches new highs every day, it will be interesting to see how One Year, One Election’s idea fans out. We will get to witness if Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand go to contesting elections along with General Assembly or will they contest elections state wise.
Citizenship cannot be given on the basis of religion
Citizenship of a country is granted to people on the basis of the ancestry of the person. It has never got anything to do with your religion.
The North-Eastern state of Assam is facing the biggest uprising of agitators it has seen in the last six years. Since yesterday, the people of Assam have taken to the streets in order to oppose the amendment in the Citizenship Bill of 2016. As many as 28 Student Unions and citizen groups have come together to join hands in the protest. People of Assam are so against the amendment that even the Chief Minister Sarbanand Sonowal’s alma mater, Dibrugarh University has stopped his entry in the premise till the time the bill isn’t withdrawn.
This opposition towards the Bill has emanated from the dire fear of being reduced to a minority.
But what is Assam Accord?
The Assam Accord, signed between the agitators and the government marked mid-night of 24th March 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to people who have come illegally to India from Bangladesh. People, who are originally Bangladeshi and have been staying in India illegally should be detected and deported to Bangladesh. The central government also promised to provide ‘legislative and administrative safeguards to protect the cultural, social, and linguistic identity and heritage’ of the Assamese people.
Even though the agitation was brought to an end after the accord was signed but a lot of key clauses are yet to be implemented by the government.
What have the past governments been doing?
For the last 33 years, this issue has been a prominent political topic during elections in the state but the people of Assam feel nothing has been successfully implemented till now. According to the data, till now only a few thousands of people have been either pushed back or deported with or without the Bangladeshi government’s notice.
Ever since the implementation of the bill, from 1985 till February 2018, a total of only 29,738 foreigners have been “pushed back and deported”. However, out of this number, only 75 illegal migrants have been “deported” to Bangladesh from Assam post March 2013.
Now, the people’s anger is building as the feeling has grown that all successive governments in Assam and the Centre failed miserably to detect and expel illegal Bangladeshi migrants from Assam and the rest of the Northeast. For so long, the Congress had faced the charge of turning a blind eye to the attendance of migrants in Assam. Not only the opposition, but even the people on the ground felt that Congress was using the illegal migrants as a bloc vote bank.
Why are people upset with BJP?
After a let down from Congress, Assamese people thought that BJP after coming to power will address their concerns and quicken the deportation process. However, they had to face disappointment at the hands of NDA government in the state. Leave aside speeding the deportation process, BJP on the other hand just brought in an amendment to the already existing Citizenship Bill. This amendment proposed stay rights for religious minorities from neighbouring countries Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This has created a massive uproar in the North Eastern states.
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
In 2016, Narendra Modi government proposed amending the original citizenship bill of 1955. It suggested a proposal granting of citizenship or stay rights to Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains and Christians from neighbouring countries. The NDA government’s argument was that these minorities, particularly Hindus from these countries, have only India to turn to in the event of discrimination, therefore, must be helped. The centre took into account the fact that people from these communities who arrived in India either without valid travel documents or travel documents that have expired are considered illegal migrants, and hence not eligible to apply for Indian citizenship. The new idea was to allow such people to apply for Indian citizenship.
The rise of AIUDF
The rise of AIUDF in North East India has been quite controversial. In 2005, perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal launched the All-India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). The party was instantaneously seen as the one to bank a chunk of votes and supporters, namely Bengali-speaking Muslims of Bangladesh or East Bengal origin.
Expressing concern over the growth of the party and its supporters, Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat had also said that “the influx of Muslim migrants in the northeast is part of a “proxy game” being executed by “our western neighbour (Pakistan)”, with support from across the “northern border (China).”
How easy will it be to become a citizen now?
If the amendment comes to play, all the people whose identification was not known since 1985 due to failure to produce legit papers will try finding ways to get authentication. With the technological boom, and corruption in hindsight, it has already become very easy to forge documents.
Last year, in December, the UIDAI arrested seven persons, including six Bangladeshi nationals, who had obtained Aadhaar cards by forging documents to secure jobs in IT firms in and around Bengaluru. This isn’t the sole incident of illegal migrants forging documents.
However, people’s opinion on the Bill stands divided. Assam’s two broad geographical bodies — Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys — have been severely divided over this issue. The Assamese-dominated Brahmaputra Valley is against the proposed bill, whereas the Bengali-majority Barak Valley has generally welcomed the idea because the category of people who are seeking to be granted citizenship are Bengalis. Politicians in the Barak Valley seem to be happy because this category of people would comprise a big chunk of the electorate.
Now it is to be seen how the government resolves the issue.
Karnataka floor test: Everything you need to know
Four days after the people of Karnataka witnessed a hung assembly with no party winning the clear majority, the cliff-hanger, that is BJP leader Yeddyurappa’s fate will be put to test. The result of 224 seats Karnataka assembly election came out on 15th May. The elections were contested in 222 out of the 224 since two constituencies- Jayanagara and Rajeshwari Nagara elections have been postponed due to fake voter id cards scam. The elections of these constituencies are to be held later this month.
After the results came out, Karnataka governor- Vajubhai Vala invited BJP to form the government as the single largest party. However, the post-poll partners: Congress-JD(S) filed a petition against the order in the Supreme Court. The Court, in its hearing on Friday cut short the 15-day period given by the governor and asked Yeddyurappa to go through a floor test on Saturday at 4 PM. The Court also ruled out the secret ballot method for floor test since the rumours of horse trading have surfaced. Below we explain how the floor test will be conducted:
- Appointment of Pro-tem speaker:
In order to conduct the floor test, the governor of a state first has to appoint a pro-tem speaker. The governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Vala appointed BJP MLA KG Bopaiah as the pro tem speaker for this session. Though Congress went to Supreme Court to challenge the appointment of Bopaiah as the pro-tem speaker alleging his credentials don’t fit the role, the Apex Court turned it down.
- Role of Pro-tem speaker:
Pro-tem speaker is a temporary speaker appointed for a limited time period to conduct the works in Lok Sabha or in state legislatures. When the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies have been elected, but the vote for the speaker and deputy speaker has not taken place, the pro-tem speaker is chosen for the conduct of the house.
For Karnataka Assembly floor test, KG Bopaiah will take over as the pro-tem speaker. Since the Constitution says that no MLA can take any administrative decisions, the first task in hand for Bopaiah would be to swear in the elected MLAs before they proceed with their executive duty of voting today. Bopaiah will then call BJP leader- Yeddyurappa for the floor test to prove their majority in the House.
The pro tem speaker is free to conduct the vote of confidence in one of the three ways other than secret ballot.
Here are the options other than secret ballot that could happen
Since the court ruled out secret ballot as a means of voting and the Karnataka Assembly doesn’t have electronic voting system, there are only three options most feasible when the vote of confidence would be conducted:
- Voice vote
The first option in front of Bopaiah is voice vote. In a voice vote, he will ask those in favour of the motion to say ‘Aye’, and those against the motion to say ‘No’. The Speaker then decides whether the ‘Ayes have it’ or the ‘Nos have it’.
While the voice vote is considered to be the simplest and quickest voting method, is known to be controversial, especially in cases where the majority is not clear.
- Head count
Counting of heads is the method that the Bopaiah is most likely to employ. Addressing a press conference on Friday, Murthy, the Secretary of the Legislature Secretariat, said that the members of the House would be asked to physically stand up. Those in favour and against the motion when asked, will stand up, with a manual counting of heads.
- Roll call method
The pro-tem Speaker could also employ the roll call method. Here, the House is divided into blocks. The Assembly Secretary then does a roll call of members, block by block, recording each vote. The Secretary also records those MLAs who choose to remain neutral.
Though the roll call is not used too often, it was used recently in 2017. In February, last year, vote trust against the Edappadi Palaniswami government which the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister went on to win.
The decision of the pro-tem speaker is final in the House. Members of the House can however challenge the decision of the pro-tem speaker in the Supreme Court.
The state of Karnataka had in past witnessed one such incident. In 2010, during a No Confidence Motion passed against Yeddyurappa, the then pro-tem speaker, KG Bopaiah chose to take a voice vote. It was criticised by many MLAs. Though, Yeddyurappa won the motion, the matter was taken to Supreme Court. The Court struck down the original decision and asked Yeddyurappa to go through another floor test.
The conduct of KG Bopaiah was highly criticised by Supreme Court.
- The two-way street of fate
If Yeddyurappa wins the vote of confidence, he will continue as Chief Minister and will go on to form his cabinet. The swearing-in ceremony of Yeddyurappa’s cabinet is most likely to be an ostentatious affair, given the fact that his own swearing-in was kept low-key.
If Yeddyurappa loses the floor test, there are two things that can happen.
-Governor Vajubhai Vala will invite post-poll allies JD(S) and Congress to form the government. HD Kumaraswamy, then will have to take a floor test to prove his majority.
-Governor Vajubhai Vala can also choose to declare President’s rule and the state will go to elections in six months.
Tracking the Mecca Masjid Blast case over a decade
After the verdict of Special NIA court, the question that glaringly stares at the investigative agencies is who after all was responsible for the Mecca Masjid blast?
The verdict on the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case came as a surprise to many. The blast that took place at the Mecca Masjid during Friday prayers killed nine persons and injured 58 others. Other five people were killed in the police firing that followed as the protest erupted after the blast. The case was considered one of the series of attacks targeting minority community between the years 2006 and 2008 including the 2007 Ajmer Sharif Dargah blast, 2008 Malegaon blasts, and the Samjhauta Express attack.
The Special NIA court in Hyderabad on Monday acquitted all the five people accused in the Mecca Masjid Blast case on the basis of lack of evidence. No one was proven guilty in a case that went on for a span of a decade. The Mecca Masjid Blast case like all other attacks mentioned above was highly politicised as all the accused arrested had links to Right Wing organizations.
Now, after the verdict of Special NIA court, the question that glaringly stares at the investigative agencies is who after all was responsible for the blast?
Let us first look at how the case that shook the nation unfolded over a decade:
Soon after the blast, the local police in Hyderabad took charge of the case. However, after an initial investigation, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation. After three years of investigation, NIA took charge of the case in 2011.
In the course of the investigation, the links were found that the blasts were carried out allegedly by some people associated with right-wing groups. The alleged role of Abhinav Bharat cropped up during the investigation which also finds a mention in other similar blasts.
After examining more than 200 witnesses and producing 411 documents, NIA chargesheeted 10 people who were alleged to have links with the right-wing organizations.
The NIA named Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange, Ramachandra Kalsangra, Sunil Joshi, Aseemanand, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar, Rajender Chowdhary, Tejram Parmar and Amit Chouhan as accused in the blast. The NIA also believed that Aseemanand masterminded the blast.
However, only five of all the 10 accused were caught. The NIA arrested Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Aseemanand, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar and Rajender Chowdhary.
While Gupta and Sharma were former RSS Pracharaks, Aseemanand was related to the Tribal welfare department of RSS in the past. While Rateshwar was an employee in the private firm, Chowdhury was a farmer.
Out of the remaining accused, Sandeep Dange and Ramachandra Kalsangra are absconding. On the other hand, Sunil Joshi who was the leader of Lokesh Sharma and one of the accused in Samjhauta blast case was found dead before police could reach him in mysterious circumstances. Later on, it was found that he was murdered. However, who murdered him remained a mystery.
Devender Gupta and Sunil Joshi were also named accused in 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case. In 2017, both were convicted in the case. On the other hand, Swami Aseemanand’s name cropped up in all the three blasts- Mecca Masjid blast, Samjhauta Express blast and Ajmer Dargah blast and Malegaon Bombing.
All of the blasts included similar operating manual such as the use of IEDs and cellphone triggered the bomb. The communication was done through various mobile phones to avoid tapping.
Swami Aseemanand’s role:
In 2011 The Hindu report points out, Swami Aseemanand soon after he was arrested had “admitted to having planned terror attacks on Ajmer Sharif, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and the Samjhauta Express.” On December 18 the same year he confessed in front of Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Dabas at Tis Hazari courts that he and other Hindu activists were involved in bombings at Muslim religious places because they wanted to answer every Islamist terror act with “a bomb for bomb’’ policy.
In the 42-page confession submitted by him to the court, he had named various top right-wing leaders including RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi (murdered), Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur (arrested in Malegaon blast case but acquitted last year) and senior RSS pracharaks Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsangra (absconding), as being key conspirators.
His statements were also published in Tehelka magazine. In his statement as reported in the magazine, he said, “I told everybody that bomb ka jawab bomb se Dena chahiye (we should reply to bomb blasts with bombs) I told everyone since 80 percent of Malegaon are Muslims, we should explode the bomb in Malegaon.’’ He also said, “Since Hindus throng to the Ajmer Sharif dargah, we thought a bomb blast in Ajmer would deter Hindus from going there.’’
Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad was chosen because the Nizam of Hyderabad had wanted to opt for Pakistan during Partition. And Samjhauta Express was chosen because it was mostly used by Pakistanis, according to Tehelka magazine.
In an interview with another magazine called Caravan, Swami Aseemanand also agreed to have conspired the terror attacks with the help of other right-wing functionaries.
However, later he retracted his statement. Most of the witnesses in the case also turned hostile which led to court extending him ‘benefit of the doubt’ in the Mecca Masjid blast case.
Thus, it came as an indeed big shocker that even after the much-sensationalized confession, both before courts and before media, Swami Aseemanand was acquitted.
The murkier areas in the case:
Not only the witnesses turning hostile raises eyebrows, there are several murkier areas in the case that leave a room for doubts.
- Public prosecutor Rohini Salian told to “go soft”:
The former Special Prosecutor for Malegaon blasts case, Rohini Salian in October 2015 filed an affidavit in the court against the Superintendent of Police in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) who asked her to “go soft” on the accused. In an interview to The Indian Express, she earlier had disclosed that soon after the Modi government took power she got a call from one of the officers of the NIA who wished to speak to her in person.
She revealed that just before one of the regular hearings in the case in the Sessions Court, she was told by the same NIA officer that “higher-ups” did not want her to appear in the court for the State of Maharashtra.
- Calling back Pratibha Ambedkar:
Pratibha Ambedkar, the 2007 batch IPS officer who was supervising the Mecca Masjid blast case as NIA superintendent of police was called back by the UP government two weeks before the verdict. Ambedkar still had five months to complete her tenure at NIA. As TOI reported, the NIA in its order said that she will report to the DGP of Uttar Pradesh.
- The Judge who pronounced verdict resigned immediately:
Soon after the pronouncing the Mecca Masjid blast verdict, the special NIA court judge K Ravinder Reddy resigned from his post sparking speculations of pressure to deliver an unfavourable verdict. According to some reports, Reddy is also under scrutiny by the HC’s Vigilance Department. A complaint was filed by a litigant Krishna Reddy in a land dispute case. He alleged that the judge showed “undue haste” in granting anticipatory bail to an accused in the case. He also demanded a “thorough inquiry to know the corrupt practices” of the judge.
The Mecca Masjid case which was already filled with intricate and complex details has become even more confusing after the verdict of Special NIA court. However, that leaves us with one question, whether it was Saffron Terror or not, but will those who suffered in the blast ever get justice?
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