With three phases of Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir held peacefully, the state administration led by Governor Satya Pal Malik’s move to delay the Assembly polls scheduled in June has sparked a political storm.
In a meeting on Friday, top officers of the state including the chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, handpicked by the PMO and J&K Police chief Dilbagh Singh, told the Election Commission of India (EC) that the polls should be held in November.
The administration has cited reasons ranging from the upcoming holy month of Ramzan, Amarnath Yatra and Bakerwal migration while urging the EC to instead hold the much delayed polls in November.
The announcement has disappointed the regional political parties, including the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, who see it as a ploy by the BJP-led Centre to maintain its grip on the state amid the political turmoil and deteriorating security situation.
Jammu and Kashmir is presently reeling under President's Rule, which came into force in December 2018 after the expiry of six months of Governor's Rule when a coalition government between BJP and PDP came to an end in June 2018, after months of internal political bickering over sensitive issues like Article 370 and 35A. Earlier, EC delayed the state Assembly polls due to ‘security reasons’.
EC had called a high-level meeting in New Delhi on Friday to discuss possibilities of holding Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir. While the meeting was underway, the state’s chief electoral officer issued an order, asking the district administrations to identity nodal officers for conducting the polls.
However, the J&K CEO Shailender Kumar later withdrew the order, deepening the mystery over the fate of the Assembly polls. The region’s political parties have been demanding that the polls be held immediately as the security situation is not as bad as it was in 1996, when polls were conducted after years of Delhi’s direct rule.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he is the only prime minister since 1996 who has been “unable” to conduct Assembly elections on time in Jammu and Kashmir.
Taking to Twitter, Omar wrote: “Modi ji cements his status as the only Prime Minister since 1996 unable to conduct elections on time in J&K. Remember this the next time you fete him as the strongest PM in living memory!”
Instead of Delhi’s man, let the “real public representatives” take all important decisions on “issues of Kashmir," he said.
“Either you are telling me the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is worse than it was in early nineties and I refuse to believe you or you are incompetent to carry out polls. The truth is the more you delay the election, the more problems you will create. Let the real representatives of people take over and take a decision on behalf of the people,” Nasir Aslam Wani, provincial head of the National Conference, said.
The EC meeting took place after special observers, appointed by the EC to asses the ground situation, had submitted a report to the poll body in which they have, according to sources, said that the elections can be held between 8 and 24 June, or from 15 May to 15 June. The third option was to hold Assembly polls after 15 September.
The governor administration had asked for 400 companies — 40,000 troops of CRPF, ITBP, SSB and BSF — to be deployed for the ongoing parliamentary elections. The same forces would be deployed for the conduct of Amarnath Yatra.
“For the state Assembly polls, the number of forces required would triple,” a senior government officer told Firstpost.
In recent months, as New Delhi failed to conduct elections, the political parties have flagged several decisions taken by the governor, saying he was acting like a chief minister of the state. Malik has also faced much opposition by political parties, unlike the previous governor NN Vohra.
Earlier, the governor’s administration had asked the EC to delay the polls for security reasons, saying they can’t hold the polls simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections since the security forces were busy preparing for the Lok Sabha polls across the country.
One of the reasons cited by the state officials was that the deteriorating security situation in the region in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack will make the polling process ‘risky’. After the suicide bombing, forces killed dozens of militants across south Kashmir and a crackdown is in motion against separatists.
Hundreds of alleged protesters, many of them students, have also been detained by the police ahead of the Lok Shaba elections.
The peaceful conduct of elections in the Valley in the first three phases of Lok Sabha, security analysts say, is also an indication that the forces have tightened the grip on separatists' leadership in the Valley.
As the parliamentary polls are being carried out peacefully, the regional parties were hopeful that the state elections would be carried out after June.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Centre seems to be in favour of pushing the election till November as the “violence could be brought down to much lesser levels”.
“They want to rule though proxy and defeat the people of state by taking decisions in haste and ruling with an iron fist,” said PDP spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir.
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Updated Date: Apr 27, 2019 17:49:09 IST