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ECI winds JK visit, holds consultations with political parties, administration

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In Jammu too political parties pitch for simultaneous Assembly, Lok Sabha polls

Jammu, Mar 05: The Election Commission of India (ECI) concluded its two day visit to JK as the Commission and called for synergized efforts by various departments to achieve the common goal of holding peaceful elections in the State. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Sunil Arora, urged upon the officers to plug the gaps, if any, and take all necessary steps as per the ECI guidelines issued from time to time. He also called for stepping up of awareness campaign to educate the masses about the importance of election and to ensure larger participation of people in the electoral process.

Representatives of different political parties here met the visiting team of Election Commission of India on Tuesday and advocated holding State Assembly polls simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections.

The team, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, reached Jammu on the second leg of the two-day tour and held discussions with the representatives of various political parties, including the BJP, Congress, National Conference, PDP, CPI(M) and the National Panthers Party (NPP), officials said.

A similar exercise was conducted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in Srinagar on Monday as part of its efforts to assess the feasibility of holding the Lok Sabha and the Assembly polls together.

In his brief address to the Officers, after the commission held review of preparedness in the Jammu division with the civil and police officers, including Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, ADGP, Law & Order, IGP Jammu, IG CRPF, Deputy Commissioners and District Police Chiefs of Jammu division, Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora said that it was the endeavor of the Commission to hold free and fair elections across the country with maximum participation of people and added that the primary duty of the Commission was to ensure security and safety of the people and ensure conducive atmosphere.

Cutting across party affiliations, the representatives of almost all parties impressed upon the commission to hold Assembly elections in the state simultaneously with the Lok Sahba polls.

"The Ladakh region along with Jammu and many districts in Kashmir are peaceful and elections could be held in a phased manner to restore popular government in the state. We are in favour of both elections simultaneously," senior BJP leader and former J-K deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta told reporters after the party delegation met the ECI team here.

State Congress vice-president and former minister Raman Bhalla, who led the party delegation, said the Congress never escaped from the democratic exercise and it is the responsibility of the ECI to restore democracy in the state by holding the elections.

"If general elections could be held, there is no justification of deferring assembly polls," he said, adding that the people of the state want popular government in place without any further delay.

However, he demanded adequate security for the candidates.

National Conference provincial president Devender Singh Rana said restoration of democracy is in the interest of the state and a popular government is the need of the hour in view of the emerging situation.

"The Governor with four advisors and chief secretary cannot be an alternative to the popular government. The people are facing a lot of problems and only their representatives can reach out to them to mitigate their sufferings," Rana said.

"We believe restoration of the popular government will help in improving the security situation in the state," he said.

Senior PDP leader and former minister Choudhary Zulfikar Ali said the delegation put forth the viewpoint of the party which wants early elections to restore basic rights of the people.

"The credibility of Parliament, the Supreme Court and the ECI is at stake. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had assured Parliament that the Centre is ready for the assembly polls in the state," he said.

"The Supreme Court had given a directive that the elections to the state assembly should be held within six months after the fall of the popular government and the ECI is an independent body to conduct free and fair elections," he said.

Ali said the PDP is prepared for the elections and believes that the situation is conducive for the polls in the state.

JKNPP chairman and former minister Harsh Dev Singh quoted the Governor that “not a single bird was hurt” during the Panchayat elections in the state held last year.

"The Panchayat election is the most challenging because you have to go to the remotest place. If those elections could be held in a peaceful manner, delaying assembly elections on the demand of a particular political party would be wrong and grave injustice with the people," he said.

The state has been under the President's Rule since December 19, 2018.

The PDP-BJP government in the state fell on June 19 after the national party pulled out of the coalition.

In a separate meeting with the State Nodal Officers of various departments, the ECI reviewed the general preparedness of elections and asked the concerned authorities to ensure minimum assured facilities at polling stations for the voters including provision of electricity, road connectivity, drinking water, transport facility, communication facility, ramps, wheel chairs so that they don’t face any difficulties in casting their votes. The issues related to logistics including transportation of EVMs, polling material to the booths and deployment of staff for election duty also figured prominently during the discussions.

Later, the Commission also held separate meeting with the Chief Secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam and DG Police, Dilbag Singh and reviewed the overall election preparedness.

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