March 10, 2019
New Delhi/Srinagar/Jammu: Citing constraints over availability of central forces and other logistics, the Election Commission on Sunday said the elections for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will not be held along with the Lok Sabha polls.
The decision to hold only parliamentary elections in the state attracted strong criticism from former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah of the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
While announcing the schedule for the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls on Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the poll panel was constantly monitoring the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and will take a decision about the Assembly elections soon.
“Constrains of availability of central forces and other logistics, requirement of central forces for security of candidates in the wake of the recent incidents of violence and keeping all other challenges in mind, the EC has decided to announce only the parliamentary elections at this stage,” Arora told the media.
The EC has been continuously assessing the prevailing situation in the state, requirement of central forces and other logistics for holding elections, requirement of security of candidates and preparedness of the state on key factors including the recent developments, he said.
Arora said the decision to not hold the two polls simultaneously was taken based on inputs given by all the stakeholders, including the Home Ministry, political parties, central and state agencies and district administrations.
“Based on the inputs and recommendations of all the stakeholders, we have decided to announce only the parliamentary elections. The EC will regularly and on real time basis monitor the situation and take inputs from all the stakeholders. A decision on Assembly elections will be taken soon,” added Arora.
Most mainstream political parties in J&K expressed their disappointment and anger at the EC’s decision to not hold Assembly elections simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls.
Congress state unit President G.A. Mir said: “Through its inability to hold the Assembly elections, the Modi government has admitted its security failure in the state.
“All political parties were on board to hold the Assembly elections together with the Lok Sabha polls. The common man in the state has been demanding an elected government to address his problems. The failure of the Central government to hold these elections has proved that the common man’s problems in the state are on nobody’s agenda in the central government.”
National Conference President Farooq Abdullah termed the EC’s decision “very unfortunate”.
“This is not Indian democracy working in the right direction. I am absolutely sure there is a political design in withholding the Assembly polls,” the former Chief Minister said.
NC leader Omar Abdullah also reacted with anguish and anger. “In 2014, we had Lok Sabha elections on time and Assembly elections on schedule even after the most devastating floods. Shows how badly the BJP and earlier the BJP-PDP mishandled J&K.
“First time since 1996, Assembly elections in J&K are not being held on time. Remember this the next time you are praising PM Modi for his strong leadership.
“With the amount of international attention elections in J&K attract, I never thought PM Modi would be willing to confess his failure on a global stage but we all make mistakes and that was mine,” he said in a series of tweets.
PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said the “decision to hold only Parliamentary elections in J&K confirms the sinister designs” of the Modi government.
“Not letting people elect a government is antithetical to the very idea of democracy. Also a tactic of buying time to disempower people by pushing an agenda that suits their ulterior motives,” she said.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta said his party had also sought simultaneous Assembly polls but noted that the EC had “cited security reasons and non-availability of security forces in such large numbers as would be needed to hold the two elections together”.
“To that extent, we welcome the decision,” he said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist state General Secretary M.Y. Tarigami said: “It is a huge disappointment. The state government held the panchayat and urban civic bodies elections without any security problems.
“The EC said enough security is not available to hold Assembly and Lok Sabha elections together. My simple question is how is the security situation conducive for holding Lok Sabha elections and not for holding the Assembly elections,” he asked.
Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) President and former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir said it was for the first time that the Kashmiri people wanted the Assembly elections to be held so that they have an elected government, but the EC has “deprived them of that right”.
The state is presently under President’s rule after the six-month-long Governor rule ended on December 19 last year.