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.
In a series of tweets, the state's former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah targeted the NDA government, questioning how the government could have been contemplating holding simultaneous elections at states and the centre, he tweeted:
What happened to @rajnathsingh's assurance to Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha as well as to the all party meeting recently in Delhi that all forces would be made available for simultaneous polls?- Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) March 10, 2019
In 2014, Lok Sabha elections and the assembly elections were held on schedule "even after the most devastating floods". "Shows how badly the BJP & earlier the BJP-PDP mishandled J&K," his tweet read.
In another tweet, he targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "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 & that was mine," he posted.
In light of the failure to conduct assembly elections on time in J&K I'm retweeting my tweets from a few days ago. PM Modi has surrendered to Pakistan, to the militants & to the hurriyat. Well done Modi Sahib. 56 inch chest failed. #slowclaphttps://t.co/oqtDAfNdeb- Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) March 10, 2019
In a tweet, Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: "Decision to hold only Parliamentary elections in J&K confirms sinister designs of GoI. 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."
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 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.
Later, he defended his decision. "Had I looked towards Delhi (the centre), then I would have been forced to invite Sajad Lone to form the government. Then I would have gone down in history as unscrupulous. But I ended the whole thing. Those who want to abuse me can do so, but I am convinced I did the right thing" he had said.