Early elections? We think so, say MPs

March 5th, 2008 - 12:55 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) More and more political leaders across the spectrum feel that the country is inching towards an early parliamentary election, possibly later this year.

The national budget Finance Minister P. Chidambaram unveiled Feb 29 giving huge sops to millions of farmers weighed down by debts as well as the tax benefits to the middle class is the latest sign that the ruling Congress may be eyeing an early election, say leaders and MPs of other parties.

With the opposition making inroads even in Congress bastions, and with political parties who allied with it in 2004 beginning to desert it, things were not going well for the country’s oldest party.

One good way to offset expected setbacks in a parliamentary election would be to go to the electorate at the earliest, using the budget as a weapon, say these MPs who IANS talked to in parliament.

Kishore Chandra Deo (Congress) said: “Yes, there is a buzz (about early elections). Anyway this is the last (full) budget because if the Lok Sabha lasts its full term, there can only be a vote on account (next February).”

Mohamamd Muqeem of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) added: “Seeing their budget, it seems the elections will be held before the end of this year. The government will sign the (India-US) nuclear deal … and announce fresh elections.”

A Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP agreed with a BJP MP in the Central Hall of parliament that the real reason the Congress wanted state and Lok Sabha elections at the same time, around October-November this year, is because the Congress felt it would benefit that way.

“They (Congress) are not certain about the outcome of elections to state assemblies later this year. If they lose a couple of states, their rank and file will be demoralised. So they would rather hold all the elections together.

“The monsoon too is expected to be good this year. Thereafter the prices of commodities may come down slightly. That is why this winter is the best time for the Congress to go for elections,” the MP, who did not want to be identified as party discipline did not allow him to go on record on such a sensitive subject, reasoned.

On record, Congress leaders deny that the budget, widely dubbed populist, is the first stone to elections. But there are few takers for this.

At the same time, it looks like that no MP, from the Congress or even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wants an election before the full five-year term of the 545-member house ends.

One reason for this is because many Lok Sabha members are aware that they may not return to the house. None of the Congress allies in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is keen on early elections.

But leaders from these parties admit that if and when the Congress decides to go to the voters, they will be left with little option.

A Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP, who too declined to be identified by name, told IANS: “The Congress alone wants early elections. It wants the elections to be held along with the elections to states this year.”

A Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, who also did not want to be named, added: “They (Congress) feel the loan waiver to farmers and hiking the income tax slabs will go to our credit. After all 80 percent of the farmers hold two hectare or less land and only 20 percent have big landholdings.”

A section of the political establishment believes the government has made up its mind to sign the controversial India-US nuclear deal, irrespective of what its Left allies feel.

If that happens, the Left is sure to withdraw its crucial legislative support - leading, in all probability, to the government’s collapse.

Said another MP who also did not like to be named: “They have to sign the nuclear deal before March 31. The Left will oppose it and the government will go.”

Asked how this will help the Congress, he added: “It is their wrong assessment (that they will gain). But they want early elections.”

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