ASSEMBLY POLLS|‘Special observers’ meet ECI, to visit J&K tomorrow

Three “special observers” appointed by the election commission of India (ECI) are arriving in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday to “assess the ground situation” for holding the assembly polls in the state.

A source told Greater Kashmir Tuesday that the team ofobservers comprising former IAS officers Vinod Zutshi and Noor Muhammad, andformer IPS officer A S Gill, will interact with representatives of mainstreampolitical parties and officials from the civil and police administrations.

“The team is expected to visit both Srinagar and Jammu toget feedback from different stakeholders to help the poll-body in arriving at adecision on holding the state assembly polls,” the source said, adding that theECI will thereafter take a decision.

The source said the ECI requested the special observers toundertake a visit to the state at the earliest.

The observers met the chief election commissioner SunilArora and election commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra at the ECIheadquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday.

During the interactive session which lasted for almost twohours, deputy election commissioner Sandeep Saxena—in-charge of J&K—briefedthem about election-related preparations in the state as well as the securityscenario there.  The commission alsodiscussed with them their “roles and responsibilities.”

On March 10, the ECI said it would be holding only theparliament polls in Jammu and Kashmir and not the assembly elections “due tosecurity reasons”.

The ECI’s decision, however, drew widespread criticism frommainstream political parties, including the National Conference, PDP andCongress.

The state is presently under president’s rule followingexpiry of six months of governor’s rule in December last year. The 87-memberstate assembly plunged into a political crisis after the Bharatiya Janata Partywithdrew support to the PDP government led by Mehbooba Mufti in June last year.

On November 21, the state assembly was dissolved by governorSatya Pal Malik after the Peoples Democratic Party and Peoples Conferencestaked separate claim for forming a government in the state.

As per a Supreme Court ruling, the ECI has to initiate stepsfor holding the elections within six months after dissolution of the House. Incase of Jammu and Kashmir, the six-month deadline ends on May 20.

As per the mandate, the three central observers would berequired to visit the state and make a real time assessment of the situation bymeeting political parties, district and state authorities and otherstakeholders.

An Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1977 batch,Noor Mohammad is a former secretary to the central government and has workedmore than a decade in the fields of election management as chief electoralofficer of Uttar Pradesh, deputy election commissioner in the EC, andinternational expert and consultant on election in Afghanistan for many years.

Zutshi, a 1982 batch IAS officer, was also secretary to thecentral government and also has wide experience for more than a decade inelections at the state level as CEO, Rajasthan and deputy election commissionerfor more than five years.

A 1972 batch Indian police service officer, Gill has wideexperience in field of security management in difficult areas. Having served asan inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force in Jammu and Kashmirbetween 1995-97, he retired as chief of the paramilitary force.

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