NEW DELHI: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will not attend a meeting of chiefs of political parties called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the possibility of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections, while the Congress and most opposition parties are yet to decide on their participation.
Modi has invited the heads of all political parties which have at least one member either in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha for the meeting on Wednesday 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.
Banerjee on Tuesday excused herself from the meeting while asking the Centre to prepare a white paper on "one nation, one election", instead of doing it "hurriedly".
With 22 Lok Sabha members, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), led by Banerjee, is the fourth-largest party in the Lower House of Parliament, along with the YSR Congress, which also has 22 members in the Lok Sabha.
With 303 MPs, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre is the largest party in the Lok Sabha, followed by the Congress (52) and the DMK (23).
The Congress and most opposition parties will meet Wednesday morning to take a call on attending the meeting scheduled in the afternoon that day.
In August last year, the Law Commission had recommended holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies to save public money.
The Commission, in draft recommendations, said simultaneous polls would help the government of the day focus on "developmental activities rather than electioneering".
The draft, submitted to the Law Ministry, had recommended "holding of simultaneous elections to House of the People (Lok Sabha) and the State Legislative Assemblies (except the State of Jammu and Kashmir)".
It, however, cautioned that "holding simultaneous elections is not possible within the existing framework of the Constitution".
The Centre has been toying with the idea.
"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 here.
The government think-tank, NITI Aayog, had last year suggested synchronised two-phase Lok Sabha and Assembly polls from 2024 to ensure minimum campaign-mode disruption to governance.