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J&K elections: EC to hold further consultations

Chief Election Commisioner V.S. Sampath adresses a press conference at SKICC in Srinagar on Saturday. Photo: Nissar Ahmad  

After holding day-long discussions with stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir, the Election Commission on Saturday said it will hold further consultations in Delhi on timing of Assembly polls in the flood-ravaged state.

It, however, made it clear that relief and rehabilitation work will not be affected in case the polls are held on time.

“Even in the event of our deciding to hold the elections, in all our instructions, they will never interfere with relief work,” Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath told reporters in Srinagar.

Mr. Sampath, who was accompanied by Election Commissioners Harikrishna Brahma and Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi, said they met the stakeholders, including all recognised political parties in the state.

The ruling National Conference told the EC team, which arrived here this morning, that the present juncture was not conducive for holding the polls in view of the large-scale destruction caused by the floods last month.

But ruling coalition partner Congress and opposition parties, including PDP, backed the conduct of the polls before the end of the year, as per the schedule.

“We have had day-long consultations with all concerned. We have noted their views vis-à-vis conduct of elections. Quite a of few of them maintained that elections should be held on schedule and that there should not be any delay, while some others were also mentioning that holding of elections will interfere with relief and rehabilitation,” he said.

“We will be getting back to Delhi. We have to hold some more consultations before we come to a final conclusion about the scheduling of the elections. We will be announcing it as soon as we make up our mind,” he said.

In response to a question, Mr. Sampath said that the state administration was thoroughly prepared for holding polls in J&K.

“The preparedness of the administration for the conduct of elections is thorough. They are fully prepared,” he said.

Sampath said that besides meeting the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and state Home Secretary, they were briefed by Divisional Commissioners, District Development Commissioners and Superintendents of Police through video conferencing about the relief and rehabilitation measures being undertaken in the affected areas.

“We have got details about how much infrastructure was damaged, how many people have gone back to their homes and how many are still living outside.

“We also got details of the number of polling stations damaged, the number of polling stations restored and what alternative arrangements will be made,” he added.

Mr. Sampath said that police officers apprised the EC team about the security situation in their respective districts.

Earlier, the political parties in the state presented their opinion on the holding of polls to the EC team.

National Conference said that at least 25 of the 46 Assembly constituencies in Kashmir Valley have been affected due to the floods, and the Assembly polls should thus be delayed in the state to allow the administration to focus on relief and rehabilitation work.

“The timing is not conducive for the conduct of elections as people are trying to rebuild their lives which were badly affected by the floods,” National Conference General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar told reporters after meeting the EC team.

However, Congress and opposition parties, including PDP, called for the polls to be held before the end of this year, according to the schedule for the same.

Pradesh Congress Committee vice president Ghulam Nabi Monga said that his party had pointed out to EC that delaying the polls would necessitate the imposition of Governor’s rule in the state.

“Governor’s rule is not a substitute for the democratic process. Elected representatives can serve the people better ... the human tragedy in the state due to the floods needs peoples’ representatives for providing succour,” Mr. Monga said.

“While focus has to be on relief and rehabilitation, the democratic process should not get affected as it is only the elected representatives who can deliver on this front,” CPI(M) state secretary Mohd Yousuf Tarigami told PTI after meeting the EC officials at SKICC in Srinagar.

Mr. Tarigami accused the state government of having failed to respond suitably to the crisis and said that makes it all the more imperative for the polls to be held on time.

PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar said his party had reiterated its stand about the need to hold the elections on time.

“We told EC that the relief and rehabilitation work can go on simultaneously if it is handed over to a team of officers from the Centre and the state,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brahma, who stressed that EC does not want the polls to interfere with relief work, also said that they had to discuss the Jharkhand elections issue as well.

“We have the Jharkhand issue also. All issues will be discussed and a decision will be announced,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 7:46:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/jammu-and-kashmir-elections-election-commission-to-hold-further-consultations/article6514925.ece

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