J&K Assembly elections will not be held along with Lok Sabha elections. Here’s why.

We stand committed that as soon as these elections are over, we will hold elections there, CEC Rajiv Kumar said

March 16, 2024 04:57 pm | Updated 06:35 pm IST - SRINAGAR

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar  addressing the media on General Election at Vigyan Bhawan, in New Delhi on March 16

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar addressing the media on General Election at Vigyan Bhawan, in New Delhi on March 16 | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday ruled out simultaneous Assembly and Parliament elections in Jammu and Kashmir, on the grounds of “security and delimitation exercise”. However, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar indicated that an Assembly election could be held in J&K “soon after Lok Sabha polls”.

Elaborating on the reasons not to hold Assembly and Parliament elections simultaneously, despite the unanimous demand of political parties in the Union Territory (UT), Mr. Kumar said, “The J&K Administration told us [the ECI] that two elections can’t be held at the same time due to more security requirements.”

The J&K administration had told an ECI team, during their recent visit, that there will be roughly 10 to 12 candidates for each Assembly segment, which means there will be approximately 1,000 candidates in the fray. “This means each candidate needs to be given proper security cover and for that, there was more requirement of additional forces,” Mr. Kumar said.

He, however, said that the Commission was committed to holding Assembly polls in J&K “soon after Lok Sabha polls, when security forces will be available.”

Delimitation changes

The CEC also pointed out that the amendment made to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act in December 2023 was another reason for the delay.

“The J&K Reorganisation Act was passed in 2019. There was a provision for 107 seats, 24 of which were in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Then the delimitation commission came and there was a change in the seats... The Reorganisation Act and delimitation were not in sync. That happened in December 2023. So our meter started running from December 2023,” Mr. Kumar said.

Meanwhile, the ECI has scheduled elections for J&K’s five parliamentary constituencies in five phases, on April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13, and May 20.

Assembly polls overdue

The National Conference (NC), which has been advocating simultaneous polls, was upset by the ECI’s decision. “So much for ‘One Nation One Election’. The EC is unable to conduct Assembly polls in J&K with the general election even when they acknowledge that elections are due,” NC vice president Omar Abdullah said.

The Supreme Court, in its December 2023 judgment on the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, directed the government to hold Assembly elections in J&K by September 30, 2024. J&K, which was downgraded to a UT in 2019, saw its last Assembly elections in 2014, and has been under Central rule since the Peoples Democratic Party-BJP government fell apart in 2018. 

This is the longest ever time period that J&K has gone without Assembly elections. Even at the peak of militancy and civil unrest in the 1990s as J&K came under Central rule, the Assembly elections were held within a span of six years, in 1996.

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