Why J&K State Polls Deferment Is Due to Logistics, Not Politics
Many leaders from National Congress alleged ‘political considerations’ behind the deferred J&K Assembly elections.
With the obvious exception of the ruling BJP at the Centre, most of the regional and national political parties in Jammu and Kashmir are critical of the Election Commission of India’s decision to not hold the Assembly elections concurrently with the general Lok Sabha elections.
After withdrawal of support from Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition in June 2018, the Assembly was placed under suspended animation and Governor’s Rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. After the political parties’ failure to form the government in six months of the Governor’s Rule, President’s Rule was imposed in December 2018.
Fresh Assembly elections are now due and the authorities are bound by law and a Supreme Court order to hold the same in six months but much of this exercise depends primarily upon the security and law and order situation in the State.
‘Decision Taken After Extensive Interactions With All Stakeholders’: ECI
ECI made it clear on Sunday, 10 March, that the decision to not hold the Assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections was taken after extensive interactions with “all stakeholders” including representatives of the political parties, government functionaries, police and security forces.
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Both, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and the State’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailender Kumar have asserted that the Assembly elections were not being held at this stage due to security constraints.
Well-placed sources in ECI revealed to The Quint that the J&K Home Department had requisitioned “over 1,000 paramilitary companies” in case the Assembly elections were to be clubbed with the Lok Sabha elections.
“Given the fact that the Lok Sabha elections are being held across the country, Ministry of Home Affairs maintained that not more than 500 companies could be spared for J&K. We’ll assess the situation afresh in June (2019),” said a senior official in New Delhi.
J&K CEO Shailender Kumar insisted that he had no idea of the requisition the State government had projected with the Centre.
“I can tell you that my requirement for holding the Lok Sabha elections is 500 companies which I am getting from the Centre. I have no idea as to what exactly was the State’s requisition for simultaneously holding the Assembly elections.”Shailender Kumar, J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer told The Quint.
He asserted that there was “no politics” behind deferring the Assembly elections.
‘Problem of Logistics, Not Politics’
Officials in J&K police elaborated that they expected around 30 candidates to contest on the three hypersensitive seats of Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag.
“For protection of 30 candidates, we need extra of 300 Police personnel. In case the Assembly elections would also be held in 46 segments in Kashmir, there would be around 500 contestants and our requirement, in addition to the paramilitary and military which provides area security and protects the polling stations and transportation of polling staff and EVMs, would have been around 5,000 Police personnel,” he said.
“It’s all a problem of logistics, not politics.”
Level of fear has remarkably increased after the Jaish-e-Mohammad guerrilla group left over 40 CRPF men dead in an unprecedented suicide strike at Lethapora on Srinagar-Jammu highway on 14 February.
None of the political leaders have been able to hold a public meeting or rally even as hardly a former minister, MLA or MP has lived at home or visited constituency after outbreak of clashes in 2016 with security forces and a fresh spell of insurgency and organised radicalisation in the Valley.
“Assembly elections in this precarious situation and near-total mainstream political vacuum would have come as a provocation and proved to be disastrous. There is indeed consternation of low voter turnout and less participation but no big fears of violence during Lok Sabha elections.”An official said on the condition of anonymity.
‘Assembly Elections Deferred Only To Provide Undue Benefit To BJP, PDP’
Leaders of both the mainstream majors, National Conference and PDP, who spoke to The Quint maintained invariably that only an announcement about the Assembly elections would have mobilised their cadre and voters.
“Quite often the MLAs and ex-Ministers and the middle and lower rung cadres do not work much for Parliamentary candidates. We are afraid of a dismal turnout.”Waheedur Rehman Para, PDP’s youth leader and spokesperson.
NC’s senior leader Nasir Sogami claimed that despite a high level of fear, the turnout could have been high in Assembly elections.
Dr Farooq Abdullah, NC’s President and former chief minister, told television news channels that there were “political considerations” behind EC’s decision to defer the Assembly elections. Many of the NC leaders alleged that the Assembly elections had been deferred “only to provide undue benefit to recent incumbents BJP and PDP”.
Significantly bitter reactions came from an enraged former chief minister and NC’s Vice President Omar Abdullah after the EC’s announcement on Twitter.
‘Had Lok Sabha Elections, Assembly Elections on Schedule Even After Devastating Floods’
Notwithstanding NC’s attempts to project her as a beneficiary, PDP President and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti sounded equally sceptical.
J&K Pradesh Congress Committee president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, CPI(M) State Secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and leaders of several other parties seemed to be on the same page in rejecting the deferral of Assembly elections.
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