Assembly polls in J&K: Officials to discuss with EC

Assembly polls in J&K: Officials to discuss with EC

As suspense over the holding of Lok Sabha and Assembly polls simultaneously continues in Jammu and Kashmir, state’s top bureaucrats are scheduled to meet the Election Commission (EC) officials in Delhi to discuss the issue on February 18.

A senior state official said chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, J&K chief electoral officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar and director general of police (DGP) Dilbag Singh would fly to New Delhi on February 18 to meet the EC team.

“Initially, the EC team was scheduled to visit J&K to take stock of the situation before deciding on the assembly elections in the state. However, it didn’t materialise due to inclement weather conditions in Kashmir. Now instead, a high-level team from the state would discuss the issue with the EC officials in Delhi,” he said.

Barring right-wing BJP, most political parties want simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the state. Regional parties like the National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been demanding Assembly election together with the coming Lok Sabha polls to end the political uncertainty in the state.

They reason that the only difference between holding the two elections separately is that instead of two electronic voting machines (EVMs), there would be only one in the same polling station.

J&K is presently under president’s rule. The state came under the governor’s rule on June 19 last year after the BJP pulled out of the coalition with the PDP. After completion of six months of governor’s rule, J&K came under the president’s rule on December 19.

Though the central government and state’s chief electoral officer have shown readiness to hold both the elections simultaneously, the EC is yet to take a final call.

On November 22, the EC had talked about the possibility of holding the parliament and assembly polls simultaneously. That time, however, the then chief election commissioner OP Rawat added a rider that the final decision on dates would be taken only after considering “all aspects.”

As per rules, the fresh polls in J&K have to be held within six months after the dissolution of the Assembly.

However, sources said, the security agencies have made it clear to the EC that providing security to the candidates of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously would not be possible. 

“This serves as the first indication of the deferment of Assembly elections. EC’s decision to hold by-elections for Srinagar and Anantnag Lok Sabha seats in April 2017 proved to be disastrous. Nine people were killed on the day of polling in Srinagar-Budgam. The violence and low voter turnout led to the cancellation of polling in Anantnag,” they said and added the EC doesn’t want to take any chances this time.

Sources said the opinion of security agencies could defer assembly elections in the state to the autumn of this year, or even till next spring.