ECI observers arriving in Kashmir today

Amid growing criticism of the election commission of India’s decision to withhold assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, three “special observers” appointed by the poll-body will arrive in Srinagar on Thursday to “assess the ground situation” for holding the state elections.

The itinerary of the observers is similar to the two-day programme of ECI team which had visited the state days before announcement of the schedule for the Lok Sabha elections on March 10.

Chief electoral officer Shailendra Kumar confirmed to Greater Kashmir that the central observers are arriving on Thursday to interact with representatives of mainstream political parties and district election officers.

“They will reach Srinagar tomorrow (Thursday). They will have a similar itinerary on Friday in Jammu,” he said, adding that the panel would also meet the chief secretary and director general of police.

On March 10, the ECI had appointed former IAS officers Vinod Zutshi and Noor Muhammad, and former IPS officer A S Gill, as special observers to assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. As per their mandate, the observers would make a real-time assessment of the situation by meeting political parties, district and state authorities and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, mainstream political parties have decided to lodge a strong protest with the special observers over delay in holding the assembly polls in the state.

“What is the justification for delaying the assembly elections when they are holding the parliamentary elections? This is subversion and mockery of democracy,” National Conference general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar said.

He said they would strongly push for early assembly elections in the state.

J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir said there is no justification for delaying the assembly polls.

“Delaying the assembly polls beyond six-month period after the dissolution of the Assembly is a violation of the Supreme Court directives. The governor’s rule is a short-term arrangement and it cannot continue for a longer period,” he said.