The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday took exception to Lieutenant Governor (L-G) GC Murmu’s recent comments in the media on the timing of polls in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
The Commission issued a strongly worded statement asserting that all decisions on the conduct and timing of elections are its “sole remit”.
The poll panel was reacting to a series of media interviews given by Murmu over the last week. In an interview to The Tribune, the L-G said elections to the J&K Assembly would be held after the conclusion of the delimitation exercise.
Responding to a question on reviving political activity in J&K, Murmu told the Hindustan Times, “The EC is the competent authority to take a call on delimitation. Except Covid, I don’t see any problem in holding elections”.
To a similar question, he told The Indian Express that the Covid-19 outbreak marred the efforts to conduct panchayat elections in J&K. On the Assembly election, he said, “Second part is that the delimitation committee is already appointed, now delimitation will start. The Assembly elections should also come simultaneously or after that. So, this parallel work is going on. I think this (political) vacuum is temporary.”
On the timing of the Assembly polls, he said, “The Election Commission has to take a decision, whether they will do it as per earlier delimitation, or they will work as per the new delimitation. I hope that by the turn of this year, some kind of process will start.”
Such statements, the EC said in its Tuesday’s statement, interfered with its mandate. “It would be proper for authorities other than the Election Commission to refrain from making such statements which virtually tantamount to interfering with the Constitutional mandate of Election Commission.”
Elaborating on the factors that go into deciding an election schedule, the poll panel said, “Before deciding the timing, the Commission takes into consideration all the relevant factors including topography, weather, sensitivities arising out of regional and local festivities in the area(s) where the election is to take place. For example, in the current times, Covid 19 has introduced a new dynamic, which has to be and shall be taken into consideration at the due time.”
“In the instant case, the outcome of Delimitation is also germane to the decision. Similarly, availability of central forces and railway coaches, etc. for the transportation of CPFs are important factors. All this is done after meticulous homework by the senior officials of the Commission and a detailed assessment in due consultation with concerned authorities. The Commission itself schedules a visit to the concerned State wherever required and holds extensive consultations with all the stakeholders,” the Commission further said on its role in the timing of elections.
The Commission had earlier taken a similar stand in 2016 when the then Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah had asked the poll panel to hold the postponed elections in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur before June 1. The EC had rejected the suggestion and cancelled Assembly polls for these two seats on the grounds of “vitiated atmosphere”.
The EC, at that time had said “with due respect, the Commission is constrained to observe that the Governor should have avoided writing to the Commission May 26 recommending early polling in these constituencies.”
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