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Omar pitches for Assembly polls immediately after LS elections

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BY: M I Jehangir

Srinagar, Mar 31: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah favours early Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir and has expressed hope that the people of the state will give mandate for a single party rule, instead of a coalition government in the state as has been witnessed since 2002.

In an interview to PTI, the former chief minister said Assembly election in the state can be held in a three-to-five week period soon after the Lok Sabha polls are over as adequate government forces will be available.

The final phase of Lok Sabha election is on May 19 and the counting of votes is on May 23.

"We definitely have a window (after the Lok Sabha polls and before Amarnath Yatra). It is possible to hold assembly elections in J-K over a three-to-five-week period. You can start with the last couple of phases of parliament elections, if you like. Then you have the entire month of June to have elections," Abdullah said.

The NC vice-president said he had no reason to believe that Election Commission was not looking at the possibility of conducting the Assembly election in the state at the earliest.

He, however, said there should not be any delay in polls due to Amarnath Yatra, which starts from the first week of July, as the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas is limited to two Assembly segments.

There is heavy security deployment for Amarnath Yatra in the state due to fear of militant attacks.

"If (Muslim fasting month of) Ramazan is not a hindrance to parliament elections, why is Amarnath Yatra a hindrance to assembly elections?

"Amarnath Yatra takes place in two districts --  Anantnag and Ganderbal. Technically, it is only in two constituencies -- Pahalgam and Kangan," Abdullah said.

He said Assembly elections can be scheduled in such a way that the polls finish with these two constituencies either before the Yatra or immediately after the Yatra.

"There will be no security forces required anywhere else in the country once parliament elections are over. You put extra forces here," he said.

He said any such reason to delay elections "will just be an excuse from those people who are trying to hold on to power in Jammu and Kashmir rather than transfer power back to the people.

"I won't presume as to what Election Commission is doing. I have no reason as of now to believe that Election Commission is not seriously looking at this (holding early elections). The Election observers are coming to the state again. They had a series of discussions in the Centre. Let’s see what they decide," he added.

Asked if he is expecting a groundswell of support for the NC after the troubled PDP-BJP coalition rule, Abdullah said, "I don't predict waves. I think predicting waves is a sure shot way of causing damage to oneself in elections.

"The worst thing you can do in an election is to convey to the voters that you are taking them for granted."

He said the voters across the country in general, and Jammu and Kashmir in particular, do not make up their mind that early.

"We have to work hard and we have to convince the people why they should vote for us. We have to convince people why their votes in 2014 were an error in judgement that have cost the state dearly and hope that the people will support us," he said.

Abdullah, who has maintained that NC will contest all 87 seats of the State Assembly whenever the polls are held, expressed hope that people of the state will give majority to a single party.

"I would like to believe people of Jammu and Kashmir are fed up of alliance governments and this time will vote a single party to power. That is what we are working for," he said.

From 2002 to 2008, a PDP-Congress coalition was in power, while an NC-Congress alliance government was formed in 2009. In 2015, the PDP and the BJP formed a post-poll alliance which collapsed last year.

Asked if the NC will go for a post-poll alliance in case of a hung verdict, Abdullah said this was a hypothetical situation.

"Other states have also passed through a phase of coalitions and come out of it. In UP, at one point of time people believed that a single party government will never reemerge and that UP had got so divided.

"It was famously said about UP that you don't cast your vote, you vote your caste. Then you had Akhilesh Yadav (Samajwadi Party) with single party government and now you have Adityanath (BJP) with a single party government. Why not in Jammu and Kashmir? Why are we assuming that people of Jammu and Kashmir have decided to vote for coalition in perpetuity," the NC leader added. (PTI)

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