13 Opposition parties urge Election Commission to conduct Jammu and Kashmir election

A memorandum to the ECI noted that the Centre has said that it is ready to facilitate Assembly polls, but that the final call lay with the ECI, and urged the body to fulfil its constitutional obligations

March 16, 2023 08:03 pm | Updated March 17, 2023 02:15 am IST - SRINAGAR

Jammu and Kashmir National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah at Parliament House complex on March 15, 2023.

Jammu and Kashmir National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah at Parliament House complex on March 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah met leaders of Opposition parties in New Delhi on Thursday and submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to press for early Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

“People of 13 parties met here today and agreed that the Statehood of J&K should be restored. We all are together on the issue of why elections are not being held in J&K when the situation has normalised,” Dr. Abdullah said, after the all-party meeting.

The memorandum submitted to the ECI was signed by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar. Several regional parties from J&K, including the Peoples Democratic Party, Awami National Conference, National Panthers Party and J&K Shiv Sena, also supported it. Other signatories included T.R. Baalu from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Manoj Kumar Jha from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Ram Gopal Yadav from the Samajwadi Party, and Sanjay Singh from the Aam Aadmi Party.

‘Unrepresentative bureaucracy’

“We, the signatories to this memorandum representing different political parties of J&K and various national political parties, implore and request the ECI to announce the Assembly elections in J&K without any further delay and notify the election schedule so that the democratic rights of the people of J&K and access to democratic institutions is restored,” the memorandum reads.

In disregard of the letter and spirit of the Constitution, an unrepresentative and unaccountable bureaucracy is being allowed to run the government to the discomfort and inconvenience of the general public, it added.

The memorandum pointed out that Panchayat elections cannot be a substitute for legislative Assembly elections. “The ECI cannot avoid and delay Assembly elections on that ground. Had it been so, there would be no need to conduct Assembly elections in States,” it said, while referring to the recently held Assembly elections in Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland.

Final call by ECI

Referring to the statements of the Union Home Minister and other government functionaries that the Central government was ready to facilitate Assembly elections and that the final call was to be taken by the ECI, the memorandum said, “The ECI is under a constitutional obligation to hold Assembly elections in J&K, and delay in and denial of Assembly elections would amount to denial of fundamental and democratic rights of the people of J&K and a breach of constitutional obligations.”

The memorandum also underlined that the Assembly election would be the first and most important step towards “restoration of all the constitutional rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India and fulfilment of political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.

J&K saw its last Assembly elections in 2014. It has remained under the direct rule of Delhi since 2018. In 2019, J&K was split into two Union Territories and its special constitutional position was ended.

ECI assurance

“The ECI assured us that they’re looking into this matter. It’s unfortunate that a State, which is the crown of India, was made a Union Territory. We want a democratic government in J&K,” Dr. Abdullah said.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar said that the Opposition parties were ready to visit Srinagar to share the pain of the people of J&K and to give them assurances.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister and NC vice president Omar Abdullah said he was hopeful that the all-party delegation led by Dr. Abdullah “will get justice for J&K after meeting the ECI.” 

“It’s the longest ever gap when polls were put on hold,” he added.

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