CEO calls meeting with poll machinery

The office of State’s Chief Electoral Officer on Wednesday said the meeting conveyed by it on August 2 will only discuss electoral verification program and special summary revision, putting speculations to rest that the election body has started preparation for next Assembly election in J&K.

The CEO’s office issued clarification after it was reported that the meeting has been convened to discuss Assembly elections. “It is hereby clarified for information of all concerned that the meeting notice issued vide…is regarding electoral verification program and special summary revision-2020, which is an annual exercise undertaken by the Election Commission of India to update/verify electoral rolls in the country,” read the handout issued by the CEO’s office.

As soon as the word about the Chief Electoral Officer convening a meeting with district officials spread on Wednesday, speculations started making rounds that the meeting has been convened to set the ball rolling for the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.     

An official order said that the CEO Shailendra Kumar will hold a video-conference meeting with the 22 district election officers and other poll staffers on 2 August.

“The meeting will review the electors verification programme, which allows residents to verify their names in the voters list, new registrations, changes in voter details and corrections in the voter ID cards, leading to overall revision and purification of the electoral rolls of the state,” the order said.

The Election Commission (EC) had earlier said that it would decide on the dates of the Assembly polls in the state after the Amarnath Yatra ends on 15 August.

It had said the poll panel had unanimously decided that “holding of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir shall be considered later in this year” and that the EC will keep monitoring the situation in the state regularly based on inputs from all necessary quarters, and will announce the election schedule after the conclusion of the Amarnath Yatra.

In a related development, the BJP on Wednesday appointed its national vice president Avinash Rai Khanna as the party’s election in-charge for the forthcoming Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

A statement issued by BJP said Khanna’s appointment as election in-charge for the state was approved by party president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Khanna will assume his new charge with immediate effect.

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who is here for a party membership drive, also said that his party’s demand to the Election Commission is to hold the polls as soon as possible.

“When will elections be held in the state? Only the Election Commission can answer this question. However, our party has started preparations for the elections and our demand is that elections should be held as soon as possible,” he said.

Jammu and Kashmir was brought under Governor’s rule on 19 June, 2018 after the BJP pulled out of the coalition government with the PDP.

The Governor kept the Assembly in suspended animation to allow time for cobbling of an alternative alliance for government formation in the state. However, the Assembly was dissolved on 21 November last year amidst allegations of horse-trading and defections in the PDP for fresh government formation. With the passage of six months of Governor’s Rule, the state has been under President’s Rule since January this year. As per the law, fresh elections in the state should have been held within six months of dissolution of the Assembly.