J&K poll suspense continues

While the state administration has kick-started the preparations for conduct of general elections in Jammu and Kashmir, suspense remains over holding of the assembly polls in the state, even as many regional parties have already gone into election mode.
J&K poll suspense continues
Representational Pic

While the state administration has kick-started the preparations for conduct of general elections in Jammu and Kashmir, suspense remains over holding of the assembly polls in the state, even as many regional parties have already gone into election mode.

On November 22, the election commission of India talked about the possibility of holding the parliament and assembly polls simultaneously. But the chief election commissioner OP Rawat added a rider that the final decision on the dates would be taken only after considering "all aspects".

Since then, several leaders from the state led by National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah have repeatedly pitched for early conduct of the assembly elections.

Jammu and Kashmir's chief electoral officer Shailendra Kumar said there has been no communication between his office and the ECI about conduct of the assembly polls.

"The ECI will take a final decision….let's wait till a meeting takes place and then things will become clear," Kumar told Greater Kashmir.

A senior official said the final decision would be taken only after considering "everything" including the security scenario in the state.

"The option to delay polls towards the end of next year is certainly on table. But no final call has been taken yet," the official responded to a question.

A few days ago, a news report said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was against conduct of assembly polls alongside the parliamentary elections in the state and has argued in its "assessment" that the conduct of both elections simultaneously will impact the BJP's prospects in Jammu.

On Tuesday, RSS's national general secretary Suresh Joshi held extensive meetings with state leaders from BJP and members of its affiliated parties in Jammu to seek their feedback.

A senior party leader talked about the "bad image" the party earned during its two-and-a-half years rule, in coalition with the PDP, in the region.

The mishandling of Kathua rape and murder case, the row over issues of Rohingyas and West Pakistan refugees and more importantly allegations of bad governance in Jammu, which pushed the BJP to power, are other dilemmas confronting the party.

"All these issues will be deliberated upon threadbare in next few days and then the central leadership will be accordingly apprised about the situation," said a BJP leader.

A source said the RSS was actively assessing the party's position in Jammu vis-à-vis upcoming elections.

BJP's general secretary (organisation) Ashok Koul confirmed that the issue of assembly polls came up for discussion in today's meeting.

"Both the exercises (assembly and parliament) polls should be held simultaneously," he, however, opined.

The Kashmir situation would be another major factor that the ECI will have to consider before taking the call.

While the commission hasn't been, for the past two years, able to hold by-polls to the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in view of the grim security situation in the southern constituency spread over four districts, the state authorities however recently conducted municipal and panchayat elections across Jammu and Kashmir.

The minimal participation of people in the electoral exercises, particularly in southern areas of the Valley, which saw most of the candidates getting elected unopposed, would be a major factor for authorities concerned.

"The conduct of (municipal and panchayat) polls provided an opening. It remains to be seen whether the authorities will build upon it or the electoral exercise is delayed," said another senior official.

Pertinently, on Monday, the state administration constituted state-level and divisional-level committees for the preparatory work related to the conduct of general elections in the state.

The state-level committee was tasked with projecting the requirements and options for conduct of the general elections on the basis of inputs from the divisional-level committees and an assessment of the ground-level situation that should take into consideration security/logistical/personal/equipment and all other requirements, according to an order.

The divisional-level committee shall, based on an assessment of manpower/security/logistical transport/equipment and all other requirements, submit an outline of the possibilities and constraints to the state-level committee, the order read.

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