Election Commission delayed Anantnag polls to manipulate voting pattern: Mehbooba, Omar

The ECI has postponed the elections to May 25 from May 7 in the constituency, following multiple representations made by several political parties

Updated - May 01, 2024 09:57 pm IST

Published - May 01, 2024 07:59 pm IST - SRINAGAR

Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti addresses the supporters during a public rally for the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections, in Thanamandi on May 1, 2024.

Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti addresses the supporters during a public rally for the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections, in Thanamandi on May 1, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday raised questions about the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) move to delay the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency election in J&K and alleged “it was aimed at manipulating the voting pattern”. 

“We are seeing a conspiracy [in the ECI move]. The people who are not participating in the election were talking about postponing it. The BJP and J&K People’s Conference were talking. It is not related to candidates and voters. It is the conspiracy of the BJP. This is an attempt to deny Bakerwals [a nomadic community], who migrate to upper reaches in May, to cast their votes. I am hopeful they will stay back and migrate only after voting,” Mr. Abdullah said.   

The ECI has postponed the elections to May 25 from May 7 in the constituency, following multiple representations made by several political parties, including the BJP, J&K Apni Party, (JKAP) J&K Peoples Conference, and Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP). 

Meanwhile, NC president Dr. Farooq Abdullah and the party candidate Mian Altaf Larvi reached Rajouri for canvassing on Wednesday. Both the NC leaders criticised the ECI move.

“There is no such instance in the past when elections were deferred due to landslides. It is undemocratic. This will only add to the anger of people. The J&K delimitation commission added Rajouri and Poonch with the Anantnag seat [in 2022]. The delimitation exercise was an injustice to those living in these two districts,” NC candidate Larvi said.

The PDP held a street protest in Srinagar against the ECI decision. “The Anantnag-Rajouri constituency was carved out at the behest of the BJP to exploit the religious and caste fault lines. It was a pre-poll rigging. Now, they realised that the wind is blowing in the opposite direction due to our leader Mehbooba Mufti and our cadres. Unfortunately, the ECI has become a tool of the BJP. We demand that the report on the basis of which the polls have been deferred be made public,” senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said.

Meanwhile, PDP president and candidate Mehbooba Mufti addressed rallies in Rajouri. “The authorities deliberately delayed elections to manipulate voters in favour of BJP allies and frighten the people not to exercise their franchise against the ongoing onslaught of Jammu and Kashmir’s identity and resources,” Ms. Mufti said.

She alleged there seems to be “a collusion at play between the officials and the ECI to manipulate the electoral process”. 

On the contrary, JKAP candidate Zaffar Manhas welcomed the ECI move. “Due to inclement weather, which caused landslides and disrupted road connectivity, we requested the ECI to postpone the polls. They sought reports from all stakeholders and, after taking a comprehensive view, decided to defer the polls. We appreciate this decision,” Mr. Manhas said.

Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Democratic Progressive Azad Party also welcomed the ECI move. “Now every party will have time to canvas in the entire constituency,” Mr. Azad said.

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