A committee for giving "time-bound" suggestions on the issue of 'one nation, one election' will be set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defence minister Rajnath Singh announced on Wednesday after a meeting of chiefs of political parties.
In a bid to build a consensus on holding simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, Modi convened the meeting of presidents of all political parties for which 40 were invited. 21 parties attended the meeting while three shared their views on the subject in writing.
Addressing media persons after the meeting, Singh, who moderated the gathering, said most parties supported the 'one nation, one election' idea.
However, Left parties such as the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist had "difference of opinion" on how the exercise of joint elections will be held and that they were "not opposed (to the idea)", he said.
Among the notable absentees were Congress president Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's M K Stalin, Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrashekhar Rao, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Delhi chief minister and Aam Admi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal.
The TRS was represented by its working president K T Rama Rao.
"Most of the parties supported 'one nation one election'. There was some difference of opinion from the CPI-M and the CPI that how it will be done. And both Left parties didn't directly oppose it rather expressed apprehensions that how it will be implemented," he said adding, "prime minister will form a committee which will hold discussions with all stake holders in a time-bound manner."
According to sources, this panel is likely to be political in nature that will include leaders from various political parties.
Singh said Modi made it clear at the meeting that the "simultaneous polls is not government's agenda and that it is the nation's agenda."
Quoting Modi, Singh said he told presidents of the political parties that if there is any difference of opinion it is welcome.
Modi had invited the heads of all political parties which have at least one member either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha for the meeting to discuss several issues, including the "one nation, one election" idea, celebration of 75 years of Independence in 2022 and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year.
Singh said on the issue of increasing the productivity of Parliament all parties were in agreement on this. Those leaders who were present in the meeting were of the opinion that there should be cordial atmosphere for communication and discussion in the House.
Leaders of various parties emphasised that the young generation should be aware about the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Singh said.
Those who attended the meeting included Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy, Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal, Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal leader Naveen Patnaik and National People's Party leader Conard Sangma.
PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference patriarch Farooq Abdullah and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owais also attended.
Besides Modi and Singh, the government was represented by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, his cabinet colleagues Nitin Gadkari and Pralhad Joshi. BJP's new working president JP Nadda was also present.
Mayawati tweeted on Tuesday that she would have attended the all-party meeting if it was on electronic voting machines.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Yechury described the concept of simultaneous polls as "anti-democracy and anti-federalism" and said "the BJP is trying to bring in president form of government structure through back door."
On celebrations of 150 years of birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Yechury said the best tribute to the Father of Nation could be by taking stringent action against those who are glorifying his assassin and enacting a strong law against mob lynching.
BJD's Naveen Patnaik, who supported the government's idea of simultaneous polls, demanded the inclusion of the words peace and non-violence in the preamble of the Constitution.
Sources said that the Opposition parties want proper discussion before going ahead with simultaneous polls.
Last August, the Law Commission had recommended holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies to save public money.
The draft, submitted to the Law Ministry, however, cautioned that "holding simultaneous elections is not possible within the existing framework of the Constitution".
The Centre has been toying with the idea for quite some time now.
"The Prime Minister called for widespread debate and consultations on simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas, keeping in view various aspects such as the resulting financial savings and consequent better utilisation of resources," an official release said last week after Modi addressed a NITI Aayog meeting.
The government think-tank, NITI Aayog, last year suggested synchronised two-phase Lok Sabha and Assembly polls from 2024 to ensure minimum campaign-mode disruption to governance.