Press Trust of India

Assembly polls in J&K to be held as soon as possible after Lok Sabha election: CEC

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New Delhi/Srinagar: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar announced on Saturday that the Assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir would take place soon after the Lok Sabha polls due to security concerns, with both events deemed unfeasible to be held simultaneously.

The Lok Sabha polls will be conducted in seven phases starting April 19, with the results to be declared on June 4, while voting in Jammu and Kashmir will take place in five phases.

Several political parties expressed disappointment at the Election Commission’s (EC) decision not to conduct simultaneous polls in the Union Territory.

“But we stand committed that as soon as these elections are over … we will have availability of (security) forces then, we will hold elections there (in Jammu and Kashmir) as soon as possible,” Kumar, who was in the Union Territory recently to hold consultations with political parties and the administration, said.

He clarified that the logistical challenge of providing security to every candidate in the Union Territory during nationwide polls made holding both events concurrently impractical.

“The entire administrative machinery in one voice said it cannot be done simultaneously. Every Assembly segment would have 10-12 candidates, which would mean more than 1,000 candidates. Every candidate has to be provided security. It was not possible at this time,” the CEC said.

During consultations with political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, the necessity for simultaneous polls was stressed and the absence of Assembly elections in the region since 2014 highlighted.

“We are very conscious about it. We are also blamed for it from time to time. When we went there (Jammu and Kashmir), people said we had to go to the Supreme Court to ask you to conduct polls…,” Kumar said.

He said the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act was amended in December 2023 after a delimitation exercise and the clock started ticking for the EC since then.

“The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act was passed in 2019. There was a provision for 107 seats, 24 of which were in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Of the remaining 83, seven were reserved for SCs (Scheduled Castes) while there was no reservation for STs (Scheduled Tribes).

“Then the delimitation commission came…. The number of seats changed. It increased to 114 and 24 remained with PoK…. Nine seats were reserved for STs, which was a new feature, and two were reserved for migrants. One nominated seat for those displaced from PoK was done,” the CEC said.

He reasoned that the reorganisation Act and the delimitation Act were not in sync and that happened in December 2023 by amending the former. “So our meter for holding the election started running from December 2023,” Kumar clarified.

In December last year, the Supreme Court, while upholding the Centre’s decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, gave a special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, but directed restoration of statehood “at the earliest”, besides setting a deadline of September 30 this year for holding Assembly polls in the region.

Reacting to the announcement, National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah raised concerns about the delay in holding Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir while the BJP supported the EC’s decision, citing security considerations.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah criticised the poll panel’s decision not to hold simultaneous elections in the region despite the acknowledged need for Assembly polls.

Several political figures, including People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Naeem Akhtar and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader M Y Tarigami, expressed disappointment and concern over the EC’s decision, saying it has left the people of Jammu and Kashmir feeling excluded from the democratic process.

The delay in announcing the Assembly polls was termed a setback for the region by these leaders, who emphasised the need for inclusive electoral practices in the Union Territory.


Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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