Opposed to the idea of simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, several opposition parties, including the Congress, on Wednesday skipped an all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of 'one nation, one election'.
Those joining the Congress in not attending the meeting included the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamool Congress.
Sources said the National Democratic Alliance constituent Shiv Sena did not attend the meeting as it was the party's foundation day.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who was invited at the meeting, wrote back to the government expressing his inability to attend.
He also wrote a note to the government, the contents of which were not known.
The Congress took the decision of staying away from the meeting after consultations with other parties on the issue.
The party had convened a meeting of all opposition leaders on Wednesday morning to discuss the issue but it was cancelled in view of Rahul's birthday.
Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi later slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party over the issue alleging it is an attempt at "diverting attention" of people from real issues.
He also accused the ruling party of remaining inconsistent on the issue. He said a party that cannot hold simultaneous assembly polls to two states or for two Rajya Sabha seats has no right to talk about holding all elections together.
The Left parties, represented by Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Communist Party of India's D Raja, attended the meeting but vehemently opposed the idea, saying it is against the spirit of federalism. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi also opposed the idea for being against the federal structure.
The "one nation, one election" proposal is fundamentally anti-federal and a "backdoor way of replacing our parliamentary democracy", Yechury said.
The meeting was held in the library building of Parliament.
Asked why the Congress did not attend the all-party meeting, Gogoi said, "We have explained that the Congress president expressed regret regarding 'one nation, one election' meeting."
"We have said, our legal experts, our constitutional experts have also said that this is perversion of the Constitution; the framer of our Constitution envisioned flexibility and envisioned federalism. So this brings in a sense of rigidity, this brings us constitutional change.
"There has not been enough study into it and the party which is proposing the idea itself is being inconsistent. When they can't hold two state elections simultaneously - forget about states, they can't hold elections to two Rajya Sabha seats simultaneously. My request is please show your willingness and hold the two Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat at the same time," Gogoi said.
"Hypocrisy at best and diversion from issues of unemployment, Muzaffarpur, farmers suicides at least," the Congress leader said, adding that the government was not serious on the issue.
"It is a way to distract people from real issues," he said, adding that 'one nation, one election' is a constitutional process and dared it to bring a constitutional amendment.
Gogoi claimed that when it suits the BJP, it opts for multi-phase elections, when it feels something new should be done, then it talks about 'one nation, one election'.
"It has not shown consistency in its functioning," he said, wondering if it is really serious about 'one nation, one election'.
BSP chief Mayawati tweeted saying she would have attended the meeting had it been on electronic voting machines.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did not attend the meeting.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi was represented at the meeting by its working president K T Rama Rao, the son of K Chandrashekar Rao.
On Tuesday, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee declined the invitation to attend the meeting and asked the Centre to instead prepare a white paper on the "one nation, one election" issue for consultations.
Modi has invited the presidents of all the political parties that have at least one member either in the Lok Sabha or in the Rajya Sabha to discuss the issue.
Sources said Opposition parties feel there needs to be greater discussions among various stakeholders before taking the issue further.