Hold LS-Assembly polls together, J&K parties tell ECI

Almost all mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir Monday said the LokSabha and assembly elections should be held together in the state.

In their separate meetings with a high-level team from the election commission of India (ECI), which arrived here this morning to review the poll preparedness, the parties unanimously said it was necessary to hold the two elections simultaneously “to end the prevailing uncertainty in the state”.

The ECI team is headed by chief election commissioner Sunil Arora. The assembly elections are due in the state in the wake of dissolution of the House by governor Satya Pal Malik on November 21 last year.

As per a Supreme Court ruling, the assembly election should be held within six months of dissolution of the House.

After their arrival in Srinagar, the ECI team interacted with representatives of mainstream political parties and officers from the civil and police administrations to seek their “views and feedback” about the prevailing security situation in Kashmir and preparations for the upcoming elections.

A three-member delegation of National Conference, led by its general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar, demanded that the assembly elections in J&K should be held alongside the LokSabha elections.

“This (holding of simultaneous polls) would give the state a democratically-elected government at the earliest,” Sagar told reporters after meeting the poll-body members.

He said the ECI should respect the opinion of the political parties. “Almost all parties are in favour of holding the polls together. The governor recently said that not a bird was harmed during the civic elections. What is the justification then to delay the assembly polls?” he asked.

Without naming anyone, Sagar said some forces want elections deferred “due to their political compulsions”.

In a statement, a National Conference spokesman said its delegation further said that security should not be a reason to put off the state elections in view of the governor’s on-record affirmation of having conducted the urban local body and panchayat elections together.

“The governor has himself maintained that the recently-conducted panchayat elections were peaceful and held without any untoward incident. The expanse of panchayat elections was much larger than the parliament and legislative assembly elections. There is nothing which suggests irrationally of not having the two elections held together,” the delegation told the ECI team.

They said the “delay in giving people a democratically-elected government will inadvertently disenchant them towards democracy”.

“Governor’s short-run administrative announcements and decisions have added to the confusion and mistrust among the people. The governor is amending the constitution, altering laws and rules. It is therefore in the interest of the state to hold the assembly elections immediately,” the NC delegation said.

Opposing separate elections, NC’s provincial president Nasir AslamWani said the state cannot afford two elections in a year.

“When the ECI doesn’t have a problem in holding the parliament elections, what is the justification for delaying the assembly elections?” he asked.

The Congress also impressed upon the ECI team to conduct the assembly elections simultaneously with the LokSabha polls.

“The situation today is better than 1996, 2002, 2008 and 2014. We told the poll-body that high voter turnout was recorded in the 2008 assembly elections when people had doubts about holding of the exercise due to the situation that prevailed in Kashmir at that time,” senior Congress leader Taj Mohi-ud-Din, who led a party delegation to the ECI, said.

Senior Peoples Democratic Party leader AbdurRehmanVeeri said the party urged the ECI team to hold the elections to state assembly so that a “civilian government is in place”.

“We told the ECI that the governor’s rule is a stop-gap arrangement and not a permanent solution. The civilian government can better address the grievances and problems of the people,” he said.

The BharatiyaJanata Party, however, left the decision on timing of the assembly polls to the ECI.

“We told the visiting ECI team that we are ready to participate in the polls whenever the poll body decides on the dates,” BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur told Greater Kashmir.

A delegation from CPI (M) headed by Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami told the ECI team that the “only effective response to this situation is to initiate the democratic process and hold elections to the Assembly and Lok Sabha simultaneously”.

A party spokesman said the delegation apprised the visiting team that uncertainty in the state is “deepening day-by-day and dissatisfaction among a large section of people is increasing in absence of an elected government in the state for the past nine months”. The CPI (M) leaders urged the CEC to announce the election dates for the parliament and assembly as soon as possible to “end the prevailing political uncertainty in the sensitive state”.

Chairman, Peoples Democratic Front Hakeem Muhammad Yasin also favoured holding of polls simultaneously for the assembly and Lok Sabha. “I apprised the delegation that Jammu and Kashmir is passing through a worst phase of uncertainty and alienation and the best way to address the situation is to hold immediate elections,” he said. Chairman, Democratic Party (Nationalist) Ghulam Hassan Mir also came out in the support of the demand for simultaneous polls.

“The governor’s rule is an exception. It cannot continue for a long duration,” he said.