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Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Polls Likely to Be Held Later This Year, Says Election Commission

Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Polls Likely to Be Held Later This Year, Says Election Commission

The poll panel, which said the dates for the elections will be announced after the Amarnath Yatra that starts on July 1, will also continue to monitor the situation in the state.

Srinagar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday said the dates for Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be announced after the conclusion of Amarnath Yatra which ends on August 15.

The EC unanimously decided that the Assembly elections in the state will be considered for later this year, ECI Under Secretary Pawan Diwan said in a statement.

The statement added that the poll body will keep monitoring the situation in the state, taking inputs from all "necessary quarters". It said that the dates would be announced after the conclusion of Amarnath Yatra.

The 46-day-long pilgrimage will begin on July 1, the day of Masik Shivratri, and conclude on August 15, the day of Shravan Purnima.

The state recently went to polls in the Lok Sabha elections. While the Jammu region witnessed an impressive voter turnout, the figures in Kashmir Valley remained low, particularly in the southern districts where only 9% votes were polled. The voting for Anantnag seat was held in three phases, owing to security reasons.

The state was put under Governor's rule after the coalition between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) collapsed in June last year. The Assembly was subsequently dissolved in November 2018 after the PDP, Congress and the National Congress (NC) approached Governor Satya Pal Malik staking claim to form the government. The state has been under President’s rule since December 2018.

Most of the parties in the state have been demanding that elections be conducted at the earliest. They also sought that Assembly and Lok Sabha elections be held simultaneously. However, the EC deferred the Assembly polls, citing security issues and said the situation was not conducive to hold elections.

Terming it a failure of democracy, political parties in Kashmir have accused the EC of denying the state's citizens their right to elect a democratic government.

“The Election Commission has failed to implement the decision of the Supreme Court, which states that elections in the state should be held within six months after the Assembly is dissolved,” said Ali Mohammad Sagar, senior leader of the National Conference, adding there is no clarity on the elections even after a year.

PDP spokesperson Tahir Sayeed claimed that the election is being deliberately delayed in the state.

“If the election for urban local body, panchayat and Lok Sabha can be held peacefully, why not the Assembly polls?” he asked, accusing the Centre of trying to create a divide between the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The BJP leadership of the state is also pitching for early elections. “We believe that the Election Commission of India is an autonomous body and they have to decide on elections. They can tell when it will be feasible,” state BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur told News18. “We also want that elections to be held and a popular government be placed.”

Over the allegations of polls being postponed deliberately, the saffron party said it is the "overwhelming mandate of the BJP is unnerving the regional parties".

“The regional parties in the state don’t have any other issue. They are demoralised by the mandate of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji,” said Thakur, adding that the party is not in favour of the division of the state.

Earlier, the EC had appointed three independent observers to assess the readiness for Assembly elections in the state. The observers submitted a report on April 15 and had conveyed to the poll panel that the situation is conducive for elections immediately after the Lok Sabha polls.

There has been a constant concern about conducting Assembly elections in the state because of the security situation.

Security sources have said that paramilitaries in the Valley will be engaged during the Amarnath Yatra. “We believe that poll dates will be announced soon after the yatra is over,” said a top state police official.