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Assembly polls in J&K will have to wait…

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Polls to be held in Anantnag constituency in three phases

NC, PDP, Cong, CPI(M) slam Centre for deferring Assembly elections

Srinagar/New Delhi, Mar 10: Assembly elections will not be held in Jammu and Kashmir along with the Lok Sabha elections due to security reasons, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said Sunday, triggering criticism from the National Conference, Congress, People’s Democratic Party and CPI(M).

The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was dissolved in November last year, months after the Mehbooba Mufti-headed government in the state fell following the BJP withdrawing support to it in June.

Arora said the Election Commission decided to announce the schedule for only Lok Sabha polls in the state and not for the Assembly elections due to inputs it had received from authorities regarding constraint of availability of central forces for enforcing security in the wake of recent violence.

Even the parliamentary election for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in the state is going to be held in three phases, he said, underscoring the security challenge in the region.

In the first phase, April 11, Baramulla-Kupwara and Jammu-Poonch constituencies will go to polls; second phase, April 18, Srinagar-Budgam and Udhampur Kishtwar will go to polls; in third phase, April 23, parts of Anantnag constituency, in fourth phase, April 29, parts of Anantnag constituency and Ladakh; and in fifth phase, May 6, parts of Anantnag will go to polls.

Arora last week had visited Jammu and Kashmir to take stock of the state’s poll readiness.

National Conference (NC) leader and former state chief minister Omar Abdullah slammed withholding of Assembly elections and criticised the Modi government.

“First time since 1996 Assembly elections in J&K are not being held on time. Remember this the next time you are praising PM Modi for his strong leadership,” he tweeted.

“In light of the failure to conduct assembly elections on time in J&K I’m retweeting my tweets from a few days ago. PM Modi has surrendered to Pakistan, to the militants & to the hurriyat. Well done Modi Sahib. 56 inch chest failed. #slowclap,” Abdullah wrote on Twitter.

Omar said in 2014, J-K had Lok Sabha elections on time and Assembly elections on the schedule even after the most devastating floods, but delaying them now “shows how badly the BJP & earlier the BJP-PDP mishandled J&K”.

“What happened to (Union Home Minister) @rajnathsingh’s assurance to Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha as well as to the all party meeting recently in Delhi that all forces would be made available for simultaneous polls?” he asked in another tweet.

Omar said he never thought Modi would be “willing to confess his failure” on a global stage by not conducting the Assembly polls on time in J-K.

In another tweet, he said, “With the amount of international attention elections in J&K attract, I never thought PM Modi would be willing to confess his failure on a global stage but we all make mistakes and that was mine.”

“Balakote & Uri are not symbols of PM Modi’s handling of national security, J&K is and look at the mess he has made there. The abject surrender to anti-India forces is a crying shame,” he tweeted.

J&K Pradesh Congress Committee president G A Mir said the tall claims of the Union government with regards to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir stand “exposed” as the Centre has itself certified that situation is out of control and not conducive for holding simultaneous polls.

Mir said it was the golden chance for the Centre to hold Assembly election in order to give an elected government to the people as all the political parties were of the opinion that simultaneously elections should be held in the state.

“But, the Centre has once again failed to hold assembly elections citing the reason as volatile situation which is indicative of utter failure of the Centre to respect the urges and aspirations of the people,” he said.

The PCC president recalled that during the UPA government’s tenure, elections were conducted in 2014 despite unfavourable conditions, but the state recorded the “highest poll percentage”.

“This time, elections have been deferred due to the mishandling of the situation on the part of the Centre,” Mir alleged.

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti too slammed the EC’s decision to not hold Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir along with Lok Sabha polls.

“Decision to hold only Parliamentary elections in J&K confirms sinister designs of GoI. Not letting people elect a government is antithetical to the very idea of democracy. Also a tactic of buying time to disempower people by pushing an agenda that suits their ulterior motives,” Mufti tweeted.

She said that delaying the conduction of assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir is tantamount to denying basic rights of the people of the state to have a popular government.

“It is very dangerous to keep the state in the hands of unelected representatives of the centre.  It will further complicate the problems in the state and the decision taken by Election Commission needs an immediate review,” Mehbooba said in a statement.

The PDP President added that this was not expected of the Election Commission of India and the decision to hold Lok Sabha polls and at the same time delay Assembly elections doesn’t make any sense.

“It sows the seeds suspicion among the people about the designs of government of India and doesn’t convey a good message to the people of Jammu and Kashmir about an independent institution like the Election Commission,” said Mehbooba.

She added that ECI’s decisions goes contrary to what the Home Minister has repeatedly said that GoI is ready to hold simultaneous elections in Jammu and Kashmir. This change in the schedule makes the entire process highly suspicious, PDP president added.

Senior CPI(M) leader and former MLA, M Y Tarigami said the Election Commission decision has disappointed the people of the state in general.

“This was done despite that almost all the political parties had urged upon the Election Commission to hold both the elections simultaneously. Not holding assembly polls will send wrong signals to people within and outside the state,” he said.

He said the Chief Election Commissioner during his presser in New Delhi repeatedly quoted recent incidents of violence in Kashmir as the reason for not holding Assembly polls.

“If that is true, then how could the Lok Sabha polls be held? Even the J-K Governor recently said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi complimented him for ‘successful’ conduct of the civic elections in Jammu and Kashmir. When these polls could be held, what is the logic for deferring assembly polls?” Tarigami questioned.

The CPI(M) leader said J-K is without an elected government for the past nine months and in the absence of an elected government, “uncertainty in the state is deepening” day-by-day and “dissatisfaction” among a large section of people is increasing. (With PTI inputs)

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