The Government of India Wednesday cleared a proposal of Election Commission of India (ECI) to defer elections for Anantnag parliamentary segment which had fallen vacant after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was elected to the State Assembly in June last year.
Highly placed sources told Greater Kashmir that Union Law Ministry today gave its concurrence to the ECI proposal to declare that the elections cannot be held within six months from the date the vacancy arose.
"After getting the Centre's nod, the ECI is set to certify that elections couldn't be held for the seat within the deadline of six months. The certification is mandatory as per law," sources privy to the development revealed.
The move was prompted by the six-month long agitation in Kashmir which, according to J&K Government, made it difficult to hold elections for the high-profile seat.
The State Government pushed for deferring the polls, notwithstanding to its repeated claims that situation is improving in Kashmir.
The rare move – only second time in J&K's electoral history- was subtly favoured by ruling PDP's ally BJP.
In 1991, when militancy was at its peak in Kashmir, the Government of India couldn't hold elections for the LokSabha seats of the State. This had prompted the Centre to promulgate an ordinance to defer elections for these seats.
On April 18, 1991, the President promulgated the Representation of People (Amendment) Ordinance to enable the Election Commission to conduct LS elections without taking into account the parliament constituencies of J&K. Subsequently the parliament passed The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act to replace the ordinance.
Similarly, elections for the State Assembly also couldn't be held for a period of six years after the then Governor Jagmohan, in a controversial move, dissolved the Assembly in 1990.
Between 1988 to 1995, only parliament elections were held in J&K in 1989. However, the election witnessed a record low voter turnout. The lukewarm response to the election can be gauged from the fact that NC candidate from Srinagar, Muhammad ShafiBhat, was declared elected unopposed as no other person filed nomination papers for contesting the seat.
Incidentally, Muhammad ShafiBhat is the last person in India's electoral history who was elected unopposed to LokSabha.
As already reported by Greater Kashmir, the J&K Government , on October 17 last year, had written to the ECI to defer the poll, saying that situation was "not conducive" for holding the exercise at this stage.
Chief Secretary BR Sharma had communicated to the poll body that though the situation has "improved significantly", it is however not conducive for holding the elections.
Similarly, Chief Electoral Officer Shantmanu had also favoured deferment of polls for the seat and had proposed simultaneous polls for Anantnag and Srinagar seats in March-April 2017.
The Srinagar seat had fallen vacant last year after PDP MP, Tariq Hamid Karra, resigned in protest against "naked brutalities" inflicted upon people by the Government during the unrest.
The ECI sided with the CEO's report and sought Centre's nod for postponing the polls.