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Statehood in limbo: ECI to assess possibility of simultaneous Assembly, LS polls in J&K

They said that though such a possibility is remote, the full commission is holding a meeting with top officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi on March 8 and 9 ahead of their J&K visit.
Last Updated 22 February 2024, 07:11 IST

Srinagar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) is scheduled to hold a comprehensive review to assess the possibility of simultaneous conduct of Assembly elections along with Parliamentary polls in Jammu and Kashmir during its two-day visit to the Union Territory on March 12 and 13, sources told DH.

They said that though such a possibility is remote, the full commission is holding a meeting with top officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi on March 8 and 9 ahead of their J&K visit.

“The high-level meeting has been scheduled to review the overall security requirements and paramilitary deployment options for the Lok Sabha and assembly. This meeting will be key to determine whether both the polls could be held simultaneously,” sources said.

However, a senior officer in J&K administration said the preliminary assessments have already indicated that holding assembly polls in J&K will necessitate heavier security arrangements vis a vis parliamentary polls alone.

“Election logistics apart, each contesting candidate is to be provided security cover and the number of contestants is higher in case of assembly polls,” he said.

In 2019 during the assessment by the MHA for holding assembly elections simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls, it was revealed that over 800 companies of paramilitary forces would be required to be deployed in J&K alone - a prospect ruled out then.

During their visit, the ECI panel plans to engage with various stakeholders, including politicians, administrators, and law enforcement officials, to solicit their perspectives on holding assembly elections.

Official sources said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioners Anup Kumar Pandey and Arun Goel will be meeting all 20 deputy commissioners, who will be designated as district election officers (DEOs) and SSPs to take first-hand information on security situation in the UT, especially the Valley.

The full commission will also meet leaders of major national and local political parties and other stakeholders to ascertain their views and points they want to make to ensure free and fair elections without any violence perpetrated by the militants.

Jammu & Kashmir is without an elected government since June 19, 2018 when BJP withdrew support to Mehbooba Mufti-led government, citing deteriorating security situation in the erstwhile State.

Sources said after visiting Jammu and Kashmir on March 12 and 13, the ECI is expected to announce the schedule for Lok Sabha elections in the country and a decision whether the Assembly polls will be held simultaneously will be known.

In 2019, the ECI had announced the schedule for Parliamentary polls on March 10 and the elections were held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.

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(Published 22 February 2024, 07:11 IST)

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