Election Commission asks Jammu and Kashmir to gear up for Assembly, Lok Sabha polls; seeks list of officers for poll duty

Srinagar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to gear up for the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls and has sought the list of officers who will be deployed for duties for the two elections.

In a letter which has been written by the ECI to the Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer, the election monitoring authority has sought the list of Returning Officers (ROs) and Assistant Returning Officers (AROs) who will be deployed for duty for the elections. Officials said that the letter has put at rest speculation that Governor’s rule “in the state will prolong.”

Kashmir-based civil society groups had said that there was an “indication” that the Governor’s rule will continue for long as the state administration started consultations with traders and industrialists to prepare 2019 budget for the entire year instead of a vote on account for some months only. The political parties, including NC and PDP, even asked Governor Satya Pal Malik to refrain from taking “policy decisions” and leave the matters to be “decided by the elected government.”

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Moreover, sources said that a faction with the BJP was of the view that governor’s rule should continue “so that the Jammu areas could see development”, which can help the saffron party retain votes from Hindu majority areas.

The NC and PDP recently also protested the decision of the government to declare Jammu and Kashmir Bank as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) and resisted efforts “of government control in the bank”. The government later said that it has no intention to interfere into the working of the bank, even as it holds a majority stake in the financial institution. The two parties also warned of agitation in case the state government gives divisional status to Ladakah region and asked the governor to refrain from making any changes in the state subject rules so that "outsiders” are not able to get the permanent resident certificates.

However, now in separate letters, which have been written to the District Election Officers (DEOs), the Joint Chief Electoral Officer has noted that the ECI has directed it to update the earlier appointment of ROs and AROs for general elections to Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha and has also sought fresh “proposal” of the ROs and AROs. It referred to the letter of ECI dated 6 December which was written about the matter. “In this regard, I am directed to request you to kindly send proposal of appointment of ROs /AROs for general election to State Legislative Assembly and also send proposal of AROs for Lok Sabha elections 2019,” the letter noted.

Joint Chief Electoral Officer Raman Kesar said that the state will be ready for polls any time after 20 January next year. “The revision of the electoral rolls is being carried out currently, which will be completed by January 20. We could hold the elections after that.” He said that the final decision to conduct the elections will be taken by the ECI. “We have sought the list of officers who will be deployed on duty on the directions of the ECI,” he said.  The Lok Sabha polls are likely to be held in March-April 2019 period.

Some officials in the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), however, said that since the ECI has started the process to seek a list of officers simultaneously for the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, the polls could be held together. This, they said, would be convenient as the central armed forces would remain stationed for both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state and “wouldn’t have to be withdrawn and then redeployed.”

Former Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader, Kavinder Gupta, said, “The BJP was ready for elections and we are seeking that a popular government should start working as soon as possible and the governor’s rule should end in the state.” He, however, said that the concerns by political parties over issues like Ladakh getting a divisional status were “uncalled for as the region is spread over a vast area with very less connectivity with other parts of the state.”

The elections for the state Assembly have been necessitated after Governor Malik dissolved it on 21 November, citing the reason that the separate stakes for claim for government formation by PDP and People’s Conference (PC) had triggered horse trading. He said that it “was impossible” to have a “stable government” in the state with the “coming together of political parties with opposing political ideologies.”

The Assembly elections have to be held by 21 May, 2019, in accordance with the Supreme Court decision to conduct polls within a period of six months from the time the Assembly was dissolved. The state Assembly had remained under suspended animation since June this year after the BJP withdrew support to PDP on the plea that the security situation in the state had deteriorated under the rule of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. The Assembly was dissolved way ahead of its six-year term, which was to end on 16 March, 2021.

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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2018 22:03:34 IST

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