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All Political Parties Batted for Joint Polls in J&K, Says CEC

File photo of elections in Jammu and Kashmir. (Reuters)

File photo of elections in Jammu and Kashmir. (Reuters)

The CEC said the party representatives and public at large have full faith in ECI that it would fulfil its constitutional mandate to conduct free and fair elections in the state.

Jammu: The Election Commission of India on Tuesday said almost all political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have expressed full faith in the ECI and batted for 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 ECI in Srinagar on Monday as part of its efforts to assess the feasibility of holding the Lok Sabha and the assembly polls together.

"On the issue of need for elections, almost all political parties voiced the need to have both Parliamentary and Assembly elections conducted at the earliest in the state saying that recent turnout in the Panchayat and ULB elections, suggests that general population in the state wishes to have their democratically elected government in place,"Arora told a press conference here tonight.

The CEC said the party representatives and public at large have full faith in ECI that it would fulfil its constitutional mandate to conduct free and fair elections in the state.

All political parties emphasised due security arrangements be made to provide adequate security to voters and candidates so as to instil confidence in them for conducive environment for forthcoming elections, he said.

"Some political party members desired that adequate security should be continued for ex-ministers and candidates even after actual election process is over", he said.

"We are mindful of the challenging law and order situation in the state. Commission will look into due security arrangements while deciding on the timing and phasing of the elections", he added.

He said that commission keeps in mind local festivals, geographical conditions and related needs while deciding the schedule of election dates.

"The Commission is aware that Elections have been conducted in the past under trying circumstances in the state. J&K elections do attract global and national attention more than any other state", he said.

"We have taken into account all the point of view from political parties to state machinery. We have taken into account point of view of DCs and SSPs of districts, IGs. Chief Secretary and Additional DG has briefed us. Chief election officer (CEO) has given us presentation during two days visit", he said.

After taking into account all the view points, "we will take a decision in New Delhi and announce it in the press conference," he said.

In reply to a question whether political leadership of the state and state machinery are on one page in holding elections, he parried the reply.

Asked weather situation is right for holding elections in view of Pulwama terror attack and border shelling, he said "we have seen some of the best presentation by officers. They are very focussed and very precise. None of them seem to be intimidated. They all know what the situation is. They are neither overwhelmed by the situation nor intimated by it. That is the healthy sign".

He rejected the apprehension concerning the EVMs and complaints in this regard and said they are being used for a long time now. On the poll boycott threat, he said such things keep coming.

Regarding polls in shelling-hit border areas, he said the DCs of these districts were of the opinion that they can hold the elections.

He said for the first time in the forthcoming general elections, VVPATs will also be used at all polling booths along with the EVM machines. Thus the officers need to ensure due awareness to all stakeholders about proper usage of the machines.

He said the Commission reviewed the work of District Election Officers, SPs ,Commissioner of Police, Divisional Commissioners and IGs and discussed election preparedness with Chief Secretary, DGP and other Nodal Officials of the State.

The Commission also met with Nodal officers of Income Tax, Excise, Narcotics Control, Customs, Banks, Postal Department, Railways, Airports and with State Level Bankers Committee convener to review in detail the strategy to curb misuse of money, liquor & freebies distribution during the election.

He said that highlights of the issues discussed during the meeting and instructions of the Commission include issues regarding electoral roll; polling arrangements;security arrangements required for conducting elections in the state as also expenditure monitoring concerns among other issues.

He said the political party representatives mentioned about Electoral Roll issues, that copies of the Roll have not been received by their Central offices.

"They also requested for copies in English apart from Hindi and Urdu. Some instances of duplicate voters were pointed out. Some parties voiced concern for Migrant Voters finding the M Form procedure not very convenient", he added.

He said they desired that special polling stations be set up for such migrant voters rather than them needing to make separate trips for filling the form.

"The representatives desired that polling stations be set up closer to areas where large number of voters reside", he said.

The CEC said the parties also cited instances of transfer of some officers in violation of ECI norm.

He said that they requested that officials who can adversely influence conduct of free and fair elections, should not be allowed to continue in their posts.

"They also said given the snowbound conditions in the state, polling dates be considered after month of May", he added.

The Commission solicits proactive support of all political parties, media, civil society, youth and community organisations and all voters of the state to join hands with it and wholeheartedly participate in the poll process, the CEC said.

The Electoral Rolls without photographs have also been hosted on the CEO's official website, he added.