J&K Boycott Threat Scares EC

14 October 2008
Daily News & Analysis

New Delhi: Fearing that a poll boycott would make the election process in Jammu and Kashmir a farce, the Election Commission (EC) has deferred elections in the state. The supposition that government employees (in Kashmir) could also decide to join the boycott and stay away from the poll duties has prompted the panel not to rush through the decision. The past three days witnessed a series of meetings between J&K DGP Kuldip Khuda and chief electoral officer BR Sharma. Their discussions were centred around the prevailing security scenario and prospects of a poll boycott and its implications on the entire process. Sharma reportedly made a presentation on the poll exercise that he said would require over 4,000 polling officers and related staff. In the event of employees joining the boycott call, this staff would have to be procured from other parts of the country thus ensuring full security cover to them, he told the EC. The feasibility of sending officials from outside the state at this juncture when the Valley was facing hostile anti-India sentiment was also reportedly discussed. ďIt could be extremely difficult to undertake this exercise under the prevailing circumstances,Ē said an EC source. To top it all, the DGP also reportedly expressed his inability to provide foolproof security to all employees to be brought from outside J&K considering the state has large hilly tracts and treacherous areas.The three-member EC has been mulling over the J&K issue for over two months. And the fact that no political party, barring the BJP in Jammu, openly backed the idea of holding elections at this juncture, has also forced the panel to rethink the issue. Besides, most parties had only expressed their resolve to abide by the ECís decision without suggesting that the elections should be held in time. Indications are that the state might now go to polls sometime in February-March. Also, the present stint of governorís rule would end on January 11, which means that presidentís rule would be imposed in the state as per the J7K constitution. Meanwhile, Pantherís party chief Bhim Singh castigated the EC for deferring the elections ďat the behest of the Congress and the Peoplesí Democratic PartyĒ. The decision would raise the morale of the terrorists and enemies of democracy, he said.