ECI to discuss J&K Assembly polls in Delhi today

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has called a high-level meeting in New Delhi on Friday to discuss possibilities of holding Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir, which is presently under the President’s rule. 

An official told Greater Kashmir that the State’s Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar, Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh and Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra would meet the ECI team to discuss the “feasible time” to conduct Assembly elections in the state.

“The ECI would seek their feedback on different poll-related issues and options given by its special observers before taking a final call on the matter,” the source said.

The meeting is taking place eight days after the special observers, appointed by the ECI to asses the ground situation, submitted their report.

When contacted the ECI spokesman Sheyphali Sharan said the report of observers is under examination. 

In their report, the observers have given three options to hold Assembly polls in the state, which is without an elected government for the past 10 months.

The source said the first option given by the observers is to hold elections between 8 June to 24 June, another alternative is to conduct the elections from 15 May to 15 June. The third option is to hold Assembly polls after 15 September.

The ECI had appointed Noor Muhammad (former IAS officer), Vinod Zutshi ( ex-IAS officer) and A S Gill (retired IPS officer) as special observers to assess the situation in the state. Immediately after their appointment, the observers visited the state. They held meetings with representatives of political parties, government officials and other stakeholders during their five-day stay in the state.

The observers submitted their report to the poll-body last week.

It may be recalled that the state had plunged into a political crisis on 19 June last year after the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government collapsed following withdrawal of support by the BJP in the state.

Since the state has a separate Constitution, in such cases, the state came under Governor’s rule. On 21 November, the State Assembly was dissolved after Peoples Democratic Party and Peoples Conference staked separate claims to form a government in the state. After six-month period of Governor’s rule ended, J&K was placed directly under President’s rule.  

As per Supreme Court ruling, the ECI has to initiate steps for conducting of elections within six months in case of premature dissolution of Assembly. So in case of J&K, the ECI has to initiate steps for holding Assembly polls before 20 May.