April 2019 News

Situation Conducive For Jammu & Kashmir Polls: EC Team

28 April 2019
The Economic Times
Anubhuti Vishnoi and Rahul Tripathi

New Delhi: The three independent observers appointed by the Election Commission to assess the readiness for assembly elections in Jammu Kashmir are learnt to have conveyed to the poll panel that the situation is conducive for elections immediately after Lok Sabha polls. The home ministry and the state administration on the other hand have proposed the September-October period for elections citing the tourist season, the holy month of Ramzan and the forthcoming Amarnath Yatra in the valley, which will begin on July 1. In a meeting with ECI on April 26, they proposed that elections be held in JK between September-October, along with polls in Haryana and Maharashtra. The Centre has also proposed a November election for the state. The security arrangements and forces will have to be mobilised for Amarnath yatra at least two weeks before the yatra. There is always a high threat alert for the yatra and arrangements will have to be put in place well in advance, a home ministry official confirmed. The Election Commission is expected to take a final call this week. The special observers Noor Mohammad, Vinod Zutshi and AS Gill submitted their report to the Election Commission on April 15. ET has learnt that the Observers have pointed out in their report that there is a good possibility to hold assembly elections in the state soon after Lok Sabha polls are completed on May 19 as the key concern on availability of security forces can be easily addressed by then. Assembly elections in JK could not be scheduled simultaneously with Lok Sabha Polls as both the MHA and the JK administration had told EC that they cannot provide the huge number of security personnel required for the same. They had, however, also told EC in writing that after Lok Sabha polls, security availability will no longer be a roadblock and assembly elections can be conducted smoothly. JK has been functioning without an elected government since the PDP-BJP coalition fell apart in June, 2018. The new Lok Sabha will have to extend the Presidents rule on June 20, 2019 if an elected government is not in place before then. OBSERVERS VS STATE Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had announced on March 10 that the scheduling of assembly polls in JK would be on the basis of the assessment of the Special Central Observers. The observers made two visits to the state and held discussions with leaders of political parties, the state administration and security in-charges. No political party or administrative machinery in the state or from MHA had then indicated any reservations regarding the Amarnath Yatra or Ramzan, ET has gathered. SECURITY CONCERNS In March, security assessments showed that holding assembly elections would require considerable presence of security personnel. Estimates showed that 150-200 companies of security personnel were needed. This was proving to be difficult if the assembly elections were scheduled simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls.