In the wake of the recent flood in Jammu and Kashmir, the Election Commission of India has sought a detailed report from state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Umang Narula on whether Assembly elections could be held there before the term of the current House ends on January 19 next year.
The EC is also planning to hold consultations with mainstream political parties and other stakeholders on whether Assembly elections should be held now or postponed indefinitely, a decision that would lead to the imposition of Governor’s rule in the state.
Before reaching a final decision on the issue, the EC will also have to take into consideration that a large number of people, especially in the Valley, have been displaced from their homes and may not be able to take part in the electoral process. Also, due to the displacement of such a large number of people, the process of revision of electoral rolls has also taken a hit and is behind schedule. “We are awaiting the report of the CEO, which is likely to reach us early next week, before a final decision can be taken,” said a senior EC functionary.
Sources said the full Commission — the Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners — will visit the state soon and take inputs from Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Sources in the MHA said the ministry was of the view that since the situation is improving fast in the state, elections should be held on time. Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami, who was in Kashmir this week to take stock of relief work, is learnt to have briefed the Centre about the situation. “We will convey our view to the EC when we are asked to do so. With flood water receding and normal life expected to be restored in few days, there is no logic behind postponing the polls. However, a final decision will be taken after proper consultations,” said a senior MHA official.
It is learnt that the prevailing view within the EC, based on preliminary reports sent by various departments and agencies, is that with situation still far from normal it would be certainly be a challenge to hold free and fair elections in the near future. “But, we are told that things are improving. Let’s see,” said an EC functionary.
Incidentally, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has voiced his opposition to any move to postpone the polls and impose Governor’s rule.