Shujaat Bukhari

We will boycott elections, say separatists

We will go it alone, says Omar Abdullah

Fully geared: Chief Electoral Officer

SRINAGAR: The mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have hailed the announcement of Assembly elections. However, separatists have said that they will campaign for boycott of elections.

National Conference president Omar Abdullah said now his focus would be on campaign and finalising candidates. “At least the confusion which had been prevailing for the last few weeks is over now,” he told a local news agency. The NC president ruled out alliance with any party.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary M.Y. Tarigami asked all parties to take it as a challenge which could help in restoring democratic process. His party had demanded confidence-building measures before taking a decision on polls. “Governor’s rule in any case cannot substitute a democratic government,” he said, adding that they were ready to participate in the elections.

Congress vice-president Abdul Gani Vakil told The Hindu that his party respected the EC decision. “We are ready to jump into the process as this is the only way to help people.”

However, the People’s Democratic Party, which had strongly advocated for deferring the polls, is maintaining silence. Sources said the party’s political affairs committee is meeting soon to decide whether or not to join the electoral process.

BJP State president Ashok Khajuria said: “We welcome the decision and we are ready.”

But the separatists, including the Hurriyat Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, said they would run a poll boycott campaign, saying “these were meaningless and not a solution to the Kashmir issue.” JKLF chairman Yasin Malik said to vote or not to vote was an individual choice but “we should also be allowed to hold anti-election campaign freely.”

Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Officer B.R. Sharma told The Hindu that his department was fully geared to conduct the elections. Mr. Sharma, who held a meeting with the EC in Delhi before the announcement was made, said 8,109 booths would be set up — 4,378 in Kashmir and 3,731 in Jammu division. Police and security personnel would be deployed keeping in view the sensitivity of the location.

The elections are being conducted on the basis of the revised rolls as per January 1, 2008. The State has a total electorate of 65,38,111.