Representatives of different political parties here met the visiting team of Election Commission of India on Tuesday and advocated holding state assembly polls simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections. The team, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, reached Jammu on the second leg of the two-day tour and held discussions with the representatives of various political parties, including the BJP, Congress, National Conference, PDP, CPI(M) and the National Panthers Party (NPP), officials said.
A similar exercise was conducted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in Srinagar on Monday as part of its efforts to assess the feasibility of holding the Lok Sabha and the assembly polls together. Cutting across party affiliations, the representatives of almost all parties impressed upon the commission to hold assembly elections in the state simultaneously with the Lok Sahba polls.
“The Ladakh region along with Jammu and many districts in Kashmir are peaceful and elections could be held in a phased manner to restore popular government in the state. We are in favour of both elections simultaneously,” senior BJP leader and former J-K deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta told reporters after the party delegation met the ECI team here. State Congress vice president and former minister Raman Bhalla, who led the party delegation, said the Congress never escaped form the democratic exercise and it is the responsibility of the ECI to restore democracy in the state by holding the elections. “If general elections could be held, there is no justification of deferring assembly polls,” he said, adding that the people of the state want popular government in place without any further delay.
However, he demanded adequate security for the candidates. National Conference provincial president Devender Singh Rana said restoration of democracy is in the interest of the state and a popular government is the need of the hour in view of the emerging situation. “The governor with four advisors and chief secretary cannot be an alternative to the popular government. The people are facing a lot of problems and only their representatives can reach out to them to mitigate their sufferings,” Rana said.
“We believe restoration of the popular government will help in improving the security situation in the state,” he said. Senior PDP leader and former minister Choudhary Zulfikar Ali said the delegation put forth the viewpoint of the party which wants early elections to restore basic rights of the people. “The credibility of Parliament, the Supreme Court and the ECI is at stake. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had assured Parliament that the Centre is ready for the assembly polls in the state,” he said.
“The Supreme Court had given a directive that the elections to the state assembly should be held within six months after the fall of the popular government and the ECI is an independent body to conduct free and fair elections,” he said. Ali said the PDP is prepared for the elections and believes that the situation is conducive for the polls in the state.
Asked about the recent developments in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, he said, “Jammu and Kashmir is a chronic problem since 1947 and so the tension along the borders. Should we wait till the Kashmir problem is resolved and Indo-Pakistan develops friendship and the war will not be only for Jammu and Kashmir but for the whole country.” JKNPP chairman and former minister Harsh Dev Singh quoted the J-K governor that not a single bird was hurt during the Panchayat elections in the state held last year.
“The Panchayat election is the most challenging because you have to go to the remotest place. If those elections could be held in a peaceful manner, delaying assembly elections on the demand of a particular political party would be wrong and grave injustice with the people,” he said. The team will meet the DGP, chief secretary and other senior government officials to get a briefing on the security situation in the state before finalising its decision, the officials said.
The state has been under the President’s Rule since December 19, 2018. The PDP-BJP government in the state fell on June 19 after the national party pulled out of the coalition.