Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir would not be held along with the Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission said today, setting off an avalanche of criticism in the Kashmir Valley. The state has been under Governor’s Rule after the BJP ended the ruling alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party. With elections due by May, all political parties in the Kashmir Valley had appealed to the Commission to hold it along with the Lok Sabha polls.
But the Commission- which has been studying the feasibility of holding elections as the state passes through a sensitive phase after the Pulwama attack- indicated that the time is not right. Elections for six Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held in five phases.
Explaining the move, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said in view of the constraints in the availability of central forces, other logistics and recent incidents of violence, the commission has decided to hold only Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir. The decision, he said, was made after consulting the state administration and the officials of the home ministry.
“We will have to carry out three phases of election for just one constituency of Anantnag… so you can imagine how complicated it is,” he added.
The commission has appointed three senior bureaucrats as observers to assess how conducive the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is for holding assembly elections. They were identified as Noor Mohammad and Vinod Zutchi, both ex-IAS officers, and former CRPF Inspector General AS Gill. They will send their inputs to the poll panel, following which a decision will be taken on the matter.
Political parties in Kashmir have been seeking elections after a series of controversial decisions by the government since the state was placed under Governor’s Rule in November – five months after the ruling alliance split. Yesterday, two dailies in Kashmir Valley published blank front pages as a mark of protest against the “unexplained denial” of advertisements by the government.
In November, Mr. Malik had dissolved the state assembly after rival claims to form a government by Mehbooba Mufti- who had the support of Omar Abdullah and the Congress- and Sajad Lone, whose two-member party was backed by the BJP.