4-phase poll schedule for J&K announced
2 August 2002
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in four phases on September 16 and 24 and October one and eight, the Election Commission announced today setting aside speculation that the polls may be deferred. Announcing the poll schedule, Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh told a crowded press conference that ''it will be a good and credible election'' and the Commission has taken it more seriously than any other elections in the past. Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would be used in all the constituencies, he said. The filing of nominations to the elections to the 87-member Assembly will begin on August 22 and 31 and Sept six and 13 with four separate notifications to be issued. While the last date for filing the nominations would be August 29, September seven, 13 and 20 respectively, the scrutiny of nominations would take place on August 31, September nine, 14 and 21. Withdrawal of nominations would take place on September two, 10, 16 and 23 and the counting would take place on October 10, he said. ''One does hope that after all efforts that have gone into the exercise, this will be a good and credible election,'' Lyngdoh said. ''We have taken this election more seriously than any other election in India in the past,'' the CEC said. The term of the existing Assembly ends on October 17 and the election process for constituting the new State Assembly would be completed by October 12, he said. The CEC said model code of conduct had come into force with immediate effect and would be applicable to all political parties, Central and State Governments. Lyngdoh said while 26 Assembly constituencies from Kupwara, Baramulla, Leh, Kargil, Rajouri and Poonch districts would be going to polls in the first phase, voting would take place in another 28 Assembly constituencies of Srinagar, Badgam and Jammu in the second phase. He said in the third phase elections would be held in 27 Assembly segements at Pulwama, Anantnag, Kathua and Udhampur and voters of another six constituencies of militant-infested Doda district would exercise their franchise in the fourth phase. Lyngdoh, flanked by other two Election Commissioner — T S Krishnamurthy and B B Tandon — said the Commission had also drawn up a scheme to enable Kashmiri migrants from the Valley to vote in person by setting up special polling stations in the transit camps at Jammu, Delhi and Udhampur. ''If any of these migrants is not in a position to come to the specially provided polling stations, he can vote through postal ballot,'' the CEC said, adding that the special polling stations would set up at six places in Jammu (Gandhinagar, Janipur, Muthi, Canal Road, Agricultural Complex and Nagrota), one place in Udhampur (migrants camp) and two places in Delhi (Tis Hazari Courts and office of the State’s Resident Commissioner). The CEC said nearly 56 lakh electorate would exercise their franchise in 7,000 polling stations spread over the State. ''We need to promote confidence in the State and adequate care had been taken for a voter so that he has not to walk more than two kilometres,'' he said. Stating that the issue of electoral rolls posed a more serious problem to the commission as it contained a lot of ''dead voters'', the CEC said the Commission carried ''out a special drive from April to May this year when electoral rolls in rural areas were compared with the panchayat rolls and in urban areas it was done on a door-to-door scrutiny or with the reference to records with birth and death registrar.'' He said that nearly two lakh additions and deletions had been made in the elctoral rolls so far. He said ''even now some names are to be included or deleted from the rolls. Applications for that can be moved till the last date of filing of nomiations.'' He said for the first time the election slips will be issued to the electorate by the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and not by political parties. ''This has never been done in the country before,'' the CEC said. He said the Commission had also decided to issue a sepcial security identity cards to the voters prepared by the India Security Press, Nashik. ''This will be a pre-formated, pre-numbered photo identity cards on special security paper on which the electorate’s photograph will be affixed,'' he said. To ensure smoooth functioning of EVMs, the Commission has decided to depute two officials from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh to Jammu and Kashmir in assisting the election officials. He said while officials from UP would be deputed to Kashmir, as it is an Urdu knowing belt, officials from Punjab would be assisting election officers in Jammu. Lyngdoh said the Commission will have ''hand- picked'' observers, ''who are independent and very tough'' to ensure that the instructions regarding the electoral rolls and identity cards and EVMs issued from the Commission were strictly implemented by the election authorities. On the security angle, he said though there would be enough force to give confidence to the people, ''little bit of personal courage is also required. Kashmir is not absolutely normal.'' Asked whether the Commission would find it easier if the polls were conducted under Governor’s rule, Lyngdoh said ''it is always easier under Governor’s rule if the Governor is properly chosen'' otherwise he can be ''much worse than the elected Government.'' The Election Commission also declared its resolve to conduct the fairest ever polls to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and said it is taking these elections more seriously than any other in the country in the past. Enumerating a slew of measures taken by the Commission to ensure that the September 16-October 8 Assembly polls in the 87 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir were free and fair, Lyngdoh said he and his colleagues had been regularly visiting the State since March this year. They had met a cross section of reperesentatives of political parties and State and district level officials. The inputs provided during these interactions had resulted in the Commission taking several measures, including some path breaking ones, to ensure that everyone in the State got a free and equal chance to vote. These included updated and computerised electoral rolls in Urdu, use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in all 87 Assembly constitutencies, special arrangements for migrant Kashmiri Pandits to vote through EVMs in Jammu, Udhampur and Delhi, special voter identity cards made on high security paper, distribution of voter identity slips by the Chief Electoral Officer, increase in the number of polling stations, deloyment of ''hand picked'' election observers ahead of the polling and more equitable security cover for candidates contesting the polls. The electoral rolls, which had been last revised intensively in 1988, had been updated and computerised. This had resulted in 200,000 fresh entries in the rolls, which were drafted in Urdu with the help of the Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy and the UP Chief Electoral Officer. ''The rolls were carrying a lot of dead bodies. These have now been revised and tallied with the Panchayat rolls in villages and the register of births and deaths in the municipalities in the urban areas. Besides, door-to-door correction was carried out in the urban areas,'' Mr Lyngdoh said. Fresh deletions and additions would be allowed till the last date for filing of nominations, he added. With the Commission receiving a large number of complaints that the postal ballots of the migrant Kashmiri Pandit voters never reached the counting centres in time, Mr Lyngdoh said the EC had decided to set up nine special polling stations in transit camps where refugee Kashmiri Pandits would be able to vote through EVMs. This would be in addition to postal ballots. Six of these special polling stations would be set up in Jammu, one in Udhampur and two in Delhi. In an unprecedented measure, the Commission had decided to itself distribute voter identity slips, normally handed out by political parties. The identity slips were being delivered to all households with the facility for them to post them back to the Chief Electoral Officer for necessary deletions or corrections. ''The identity slips would also work as voter Id cards,'' he added. To ensure smooth operation of the EVMs, the Commission had decided to include officials from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in the polling parties. Each polling party of four would have two members from outside Jammu and Kashmir. While officials from UP would be posted in the Valley, those from Punjab would be deployed in the Jammu area. In an effort to provide equitable security cover to the ruling and other party contestants, Mr Lyngdoh said the Commission had directed the State Government to provide security to one candidate of each political party in every district. ''We are trying to equalise the position as much as possible,'' he added.