New Delhi: The all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the concept of 'one nation, one election' began on Wednesday with main Opposition party Congress and a few other major parties skipping it.
"The 'one nation, one election' concept is a means to divert public attention from real issues. The real issues of election were EVM, criminality and use of money power," said Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi, who disclosed that his party will not attend the meeting.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, Telangana chief minister and TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao, DMK president MK Stalin, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati did not attend the meeting which was also to discuss NITI Aayog's proposal for developing 'aspirational districts'.
However, Congress ally and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal and Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti, were among those who attended the meeting.
The Congress-led UPA and the TMC have opposed the concept. Newly-appointed leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Ahir Ranjan Choudhary told reporters after a meeting of the UPA chaired by Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Tuesday that the parties were opposed to the idea in principle.
Since some issues are to be sorted out, the UPA will meet again on Wednesday to discuss the issue further and take a common stand at the meeting called by Modi in the evening, said Chaudhary. DMK, the second largest party in the UPA, and other Congress allies like NCP, IUML attended the meeting.
Mamata has written to the government saying that she would not be able to attend the meeting called to discuss the issue of 'one nation, one election' idea.
Gogoi said, "Many MPs with court cases are in Parliament. We need election reform and we should discuss the same. The government should know the agenda of Opposition parties. Why should only they decide on the agenda?"
In her letter to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, she said: "Response on such a sensitive and serious subject like 'one country and one election' in such a short time would not do justice to the subject it deserves."
She said that the matter required consultations with the Constitutional experts, election experts, and all the party members.
"Instead of doing the matter hurriedly, I would like to request you to kindly circulate a white paper on the subject to all political parties inviting their views by providing adequate time."
"If you only do so, we will be able to give concrete suggestions on this important subject," the letter further read.
Moreover, talking about the 'aspirational districts programme', Mamata said: "We have recently conveyed our views to NITI Aayog during its meeting, stating that we are not in support of selection of a few districts as aspirational districts as it would not conform to the overall objectives of achieving balanced and uniform development of all the districts of the state."
The letter also said that the party will "whole-heartedly participate in the most befitting manner" in the celebration of 75 years of India's Independence and 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.