AS THE Election Commission (EC) began its two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, political parties in the Valley made a pitch for holding simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in the state.
The EC team, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, met representatives of political parties in the Valley as well as top officials of the security establishment and civil administration.
“We told them to conduct both the elections together,” NC provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani told The Indian Express. Wani, party general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar and senior leader Chowdhary Mohammad Ramzan comprised the NC delegation which met the EC team for about 15 minutes.
“We told them that the Governor can’t remain here for eternity and there are serious apprehensions in the Valley… the way he is arbitrarily changing the laws,” he said.
The PDP also called for simultaneous polls. “We talked for about 30 minutes and told them that there is no substitute for a popular government,” senior PDP leader Nizam-ud-Bhat said. Bhat was accompanied by party vice-president Abdul Rehman Veeri and senior leader Abdul Haq Khan. “We told the team that the Lok Sabha elections are on schedule, and both the elections should be held together. We told them that you can’t have an excuse to hold one (parliamentary) election and not hold the other,” he said.
Bhat said they told the EC team that simultaneous elections would need additional resources and that it is the “Centre’s commitment”.
The Congress said the EC has no reason to defer the Assembly elections. “We told them that elections were conducted in the state in 1996, 2002 and 2008 when the situation was worse than this. If elections could be held then, why not now,” said Congress leader Usman Majeed.
The three-member Congress team was led by senior leader Taj Mohidin.
Majeed said they informed the team about the security situation in the Valley and pressed for simultaneous polls. “If we could conduct elections in 2008, when there was massive public uprising and elections seemed impossible, why not now,” he said. “Some political parties want the elections to be postponed for their own gains,” he said.
The BJP representatives said they asked the EC to conduct polls “on time”. “We were asked about our opinion on the polls, and we told them they should be conducted on time,” said BJP leader Dr Ali Mohammad Dar.
Long wait for an elected government
Ever since the BJP pulled out of its alliance with the PDP in June last year, J&K has been without an elected government. While the Assembly elections should have been held within six months of imposition of Governor's Rule, the security situation has been a delaying factor. Now, with Lok Sabha polls round the corner, the mainstream parties are making a pitch for simultaneous elections. But there has been no assurance yet from the Election Commission.
The EC team later met top security and civil administration officials to get their feedback on the security situation and poll preparedness in the state. The meeting was attended by senior officers including ADGP, Security, Muneer Khan, Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) S P Pani and Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) Baseer Ahmad Khan.
Sources said security officials told the EC that they would need additional companies of paramilitary forces if simultaneous polls are to be held. They said the security officials and civil administration told the team that they are prepared for polls.
During the meeting, CEC Arora told officials that the polls should be “inclusive and neutral”. “Elections are soon going to be held to uphold the principles of democracy. The commission desires that these elections should be the most inclusive with absolute neutrality by people involved in organising them,” he said.
The EC team later left for Jammu, where it will meet representatives of political parties as well as officials of the security establishment and civil administration on Tuesday. The team is also scheduled to meet Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam and DGP Dilbagh Singh.