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Explainers

All you need to know about One Year, One Election

Aaryanshi Mohan

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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.

Explainers

What is Citizenship Amendment Bill and why is Assam opposing it?

Arti Ghargi

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Simply, the citizenship amendment bill allows illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who are non-muslim to be Indian citizens. 

 

Adding to the list of allies deserting the National Democratic Alliance is the coalition partner of BJP in one of the key north-eastern state: Assam Gana Parishad. On Tuesday, the party announced that it will no longer be a part of BJP-led NDA. Two days later, the ministers from the party also pulled out of the Assam Cabinet led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonwal.  The ministers who reigned are Agriculture Minister Atul Bora who is also the AGP president, Water Resources Minister Keshav Mahanta and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Phanibhushan Choudhury. The three ministers submitted their resignations to the Assam Chief Minister at the state secretariat along with 11 other MLAs.

Assam Gana Parishad breaking ties is expected to be a major setback for the BJP in north-east especially at a time when the party is pushing the North East democratic Alliance for deeper penetration in the region. But why has the Assam Gan Parishad after giving a stable government for three years in Assam decided to sever ties with the BJP? The reason is the Citizenship Amendment Bill. the Bill was introduced by the Modi government in Lok Sabha in 2016. This new bill seeks to amend the original Citizenship Act of 1955. The Citizenship Amendment bill was passed in lok sabha in the recent winter session. Now, before moving on to what is it about the amendment bill that made Assam Gana Parishad leave BJP, let us see what exactly is the Citizenship Act.

Citizenship

Image Source: Web

This act describes and defines who are citizens of India and how can it be decided whether a person is a citizen of India or not. It also lays down the criteria one needs to fulfil in order to be an Indian citizen and under which circumstances the citizenship can be revoked.

The ambit of the act is wider, but we are focusing on the part which the government seeks to amend. which is citizenship by naturalisation. This part of the act deals with the citizenship of non-Indian person that comes with the time period he has spent in the country and the kind of service he has offered to the nation. The detailed description of the Citizenship act can be found on the Foreigners Division of Ministry of Home Affairs portal. In the same act, the schedule three provides criteria of eligibility for the citizenship by naturalization. There are total seven criteria for eligibility that one needs to fulfil in this case. For example, a person seeking citizenship in India should not belong to a country where Indians are not allowed to be a citizen by law or by culture. He should have renounced the citizenship of his country and has followed the legal procedure of the same and informed the country’s government about the same. he is of good character etc.

Citizenship

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Further, the act states: That the person seeking citizenship has either resided in India or been in the service of a Government in India or partly the one and partly the other, throughout the period of twelve months immediately preceding the date of the application and That during the fourteen years] immediately preceding the said period of twelve months, he has either resided in India or been in the service of a Government in India, or partly the one and partly the other, for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than eleven years].

Now the new bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.  Simply, illegal migrants from these three countries who are non-muslim can now be Indian citizens. The Citizenship Amendment Bill also relaxes the 11-year requirement mentioned in the original act to six years for non-muslim illegal migrants from these three countries. As the bill defines eligibility on the grounds of religion,  The experts argue that this is in violation of Article 14 of the Indian constitution that guarantees right to equality.

Citizenship

Image Source: Web

The Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.  these two Acts empower the central government to regulate the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.

However, according to the PIB notification of September 7, 2015; the Indian government ordered that the members of the six religions mentioned above be exempted from the provisions of these two acts. The notification further states that the illegal migrants who are minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh be who have entered India before or on December 31, 2014, are exempted from the acts.

Citizenship

Image Source: Web

Now, these are the two amendments that upset the Assam Gana Parishad. In Assam, too the bill is facing much resistance and causing a streak of protests as the state’s politics is based on Assamese sub-nationalism that takes pride in the region’s culture and language. The illegal migrants from Bangladesh whether Muslim and Non-muslim are viewed as outsiders to this culture. There is fear among the population that this Bengali-speaking illegal migrant if rises, can hurt the demographics of the state and can take over the linguistic and cultural identity. In terms of percentage, Assam has the country’s second highest  Muslim population after Jammu & Kashmir. Muslims, mostly ..  Bengali-speaking, comprise 34% of Assam’s little over 3 crore people. Assamese-speaking Muslims, who are minuscule in number support campaigns against migrants from all religious denominations.

Citizenship

Image Source: Web

Thus, there had also been the demand for an updated NRC in the state. The Assam Accord which was signed in 1985, had 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. It was decided that people who are originally Bangladeshi and have been staying in India illegally should be detected and deported to Bangladesh.  Nearly 30 years later, a lot of key clauses are yet to be implemented by the government. This has been a major political issue in Assam. With the new Citizenship amendment bill amending the two key aspects of the Assam accord, there has been a state of discontent in Assam. Not only AGP that is opting out of the NDA, but more allied parties in the northeast may walk out of NDA over the same issue.

At a time when BJP’s longstanding alliance partners are deserting it, losing alliances in the northeast is definitely not a good sign for the party ahead of 2019.

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Explainers

Bhima Koregaon: How the case developed in last one year

Arti Ghargi

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bhima-koregaon

In the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence, the political narrative shifted around the Dalit-Marathas equation in the state.

The 1st day of January marks the beginning of a new year and celebrations for everyone around the world, but for the Dalit community, the day also commemorates the battle of Bhima Koregaon, a significant event in the Dalit history that was unknown to the masses at large until last year. But before moving on to what happened last year, first, let us know why the battle of Bhima-Koregaon is so significant for the Dalit community.

About two hundred years ago, on January 1, 1818, around 500 Mahar soldiers of the East India Company, led by the British, defeated the massive army led by Peshwa Bajirao II, in Koregaon. Since then the battle of Bhima-Koregaon has become a significant turn in a Dalit history. The defeat brought an end to the Peshwa rule.  The East India Company, which led the Mahar soldiers erected a pillar in memory of those who fought the battle. The names of the Mahar soldiers are inscribed on the pillar.
Bhima-Koregaon

East India Company Army
(Image Source: Web)

Years later, it was Dalit revolutionary Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar who visited the pillar and paid tribute to the soldiers. In his view, this battle was a victory of Mahars over the Peshwas and their brahminical rule in which Dalits were tortured and discriminated. Since then the Bhima-Koregaon village sees Dalit communities gathering at the Vijay Stambh every year on January 1st.

It was last year, the 200th anniversary of the battle,  that a major clash broke out between the Dalit community and Marathas at the Bhima-Koregaon Which brought this tiny village in the national spotlight. The clashes were violent which resulted in the death of one person and injured several years. The next day on January 2, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar called for a Maharashtra Bandh to protest the attack on Dalit congregation which resulted in a streak of violence across the state.
Bhima-Koregaon

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The clashes had political implications too, even beyond the state of Maharashtra. In the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence, we saw narratives being shifted around the Dalit-Marathas equation in the state. Whereas the trail of investigation in the clashes led to Elgar Parishad, an event that brought prominent Dalit faces on one stage. The Dalit leaders, on the other hand, said that Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote were the real conspirators behind the attack on Dalits at Bhima-Koregaon. On January 3, Dalit social activist Anita Savale filed a complaint alleging that she saw the followers of Bhide and Ekbote go on a rampage in Bhima Koregaon, throwing stones and assaulting people.  The police investigation, however, couldn’t find any link between the violence. Milind Ekbote who was arrested was later granted bail by the court.
Bhima-Koregaon

Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote (Image Source: Web)

In the months that followed, It was a complaint made by a Pune Businessman Tushar Damgude that the police investigation shifted in the direction of Elgar Parishad which brought the focus on Dalit leaders that attended the event. Damgude complained that the provocative speeches were made at Elgar Parishad which led to the Bhima-Koregaon violence the following day. Since then ten of the activists have been named and many of them have been arrested by the police. The trail of investigation also gave us the most discussed terminology of the year i.e. Urban Naxals or Urban Maoists.
The police claimed the Elgar Parishad was funded by banned CPI(Maoists). The arrests, in this case, were made under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. On June 6, the police arrested five activists – Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen and Rona Wilson –Labelling them “urban Maoist operatives”, the police claimed to have found incriminating evidence that they were plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On August 28, the police raided 10 more activists and arrested five of them – Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj. The critics of the government say that it is a plot of the central and state government to suppress any voice of criticism. Whereas the government stands by the police and justifies the arrest of the alleged Urban Naxals.
Bhima Koregaon

Image Source: Web

One year on, the pillar at Bhima-Koregaon still stands to attract thousands. Reportedly this year more than five lakh people are expected to gather at the spot. Considering the clashes that broke out last year, the security has been beefed up and around 7000 police personnel have been deployed. Prominent leaders are expected to attend the gathering including Bhim Army’s Chandrasekhar Azad who claimed he was put under house arrest a few days ago in Maharashtra. While the police have denied any permission to the rally, the stage for the Azad’s address has been set up.
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Why the SC appointed AK Patnaik to head the investigation in Alok Verma case?

Arti Ghargi

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patnaik

Justice Patnaik was a part of a two-judge bench formed in March 2016 for the 2G spectrum case.

 

The high voltage drama in India’s premier investigating agency Central Bureau of Agency got a sane turn with Supreme Court ordering a probe into the matter. The CBI bloodbath that happened post-midnight on Tuesday saw the two topmost officials being removed from their posts. The warring officers i.e. CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana were sent on “forced leave” while the entire team of officials probing corruption case against Asthana was transferred overnight. The breakneck reaction by the government thus raised questions whether there was any cover-up.

Image Source: Web

However, CBI Director Alok Verma moved to the Supreme Court challenging his removal and demanded an urgent hearing in the matter. The Supreme Court today took up the matter for hearing and ordered a probe into the matter under the supervision of retired Supreme Court Judge AK Patnaik. It has also ordered that the probe must be completed within 10 days and the report to be submitted to the apex court during the next hearing on November 12. The court has also prevented the interim director of the CBI Nageshwar Rao from taking important decisions in policy matters.

CBI

CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana

While there has been no immediate relief for Alok Verma, the silver lining is a probe has been initiated in the matter. What is more interesting is the retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik will be monitoring the probe.

Who is AK Patnaik?

AK Patnaik will be heading the committee investigating allegations of corruption against CBI chief Alok Verma. The former Supreme Court judge was born on June 3, 1949. He graduated in Political Science from Delhi University and studied Law from Cuttack. Patnaik became a member of the Odisha Bar Association in 1974. About 20 years after stepping in the law profession, he became an additional judge in Odisha High Court in 1994. However, he was soon sent to the Guwahati High Court where he became a permanent judge the very next year. He worked there for seven years before being sent to his home state in 2002.

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Subsequently, in March 2005, Justice Patnaik was made the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court. In October the same year, he was appointed Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court. The then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ramesh Chandra Lahoti had praised his work as the Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court. In November 2009, he was made the judge of the Supreme Court. Five years later Justice Patnaik retired in June 2014. The most discussed case in Justice Patnaik is Justice Soumitra Sen’s case.

 

What is Soumitra Sen case?

Justice Soumitra Sen was charged with misappropriation of money and misrepresenting facts. Justice Patnaik was a part of the three-member committee of judges set up to investigate the allegations. In its report, this committee accused Justice Sen of “wrongful behaviour”. There were allegations on Sen of misusing nearly Rs 33 lakhs and being the court receiver when a legal case in dispute between the Steel Authority of India and the Shipping Authority of India was ongoing.

patnaik

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The Chief Justice of India and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha had created committees to investigate the allegations. The committee reports said that Soumitra Sen was the first receiver when he was a lawyer and later as a judge. During his tenure as a judge, he continued withdrawing cash and issuing a check from the same bank account in which he had received money as a lawyer. After the report came out CPM leader Sitaram Yechury presented a proposal in the Rajya Sabha to remove Soumitra Sen. The proposal was passed by the Upper House with a majority.

It was for the first time in India’s history that such a resolution was passed against a High Court judge. This proposal was to be taken up by Lok Sabha, but before that, Soumitra Sen resigned.

 

2G, Spot Fixing case:

Though Soumitra Sen case was the highlight of the career of AK Patnaik, he has also handled other high stake cases including the 2G scam case which led the undoing of UPA government and Spot Fixing case. Justice Patnaik was a part of a two-judge bench formed in March 2016 for the 2G spectrum case. Apart from this, Justice Patnaik was also included in the Supreme Court bench that heard the plea demanding an alternate provision to NOTA and spot-fixing in the IPL.

patnaik

Image Source: Web

After retirement, Justice Patnaik was proposed to be made the President of the Odisha State Human Rights Commission, but he refused. Justice Patnaik was also involved in a bench, which gave the verdict that if a legislator or MP is convicted in a criminal case, he/she will not be able to contest elections for six years.

Among the law fraternity, he is regarded as a judge with high integrity and stickler of discipline. This probably explains why CJI Ranjan Gogoi appointed him to head the investigation which will have a significant impact on the prestige of India’s premier investigative agency.

 

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