‘Betrayal of people’: Uproar in J&K over delayed assembly elections

The assembly polls in J&K will be held after LS elections

Kashmir assembly polls Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol at the main market in Srinagar | AP

Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have sharply reacted to the Election Commission of India's (ECI) announcement on Saturday, saying there will be no simultaneous Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections alongside the Lok Sabha polls.

Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi to unveil the Lok Sabha poll schedule and those of four state assemblies, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said that only four states would hold simultaneous polls with the Lok Sabha, excluding Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that assembly elections would take place in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh concurrently with the Lok Sabha polls.

The Lok Sabha polls will commence on April 19 and will span seven phases, with the vote count scheduled for June 4. Kumar outlined that the polls for five Lok Sabha constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir would occur across five phases, with one J&K constituency voting in each phase. The phases are slated for April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13, May 20, May 25, and June 1.

He said that the assembly election in J&K will be held after the Lok Sabha polls, as organising both elections simultaneously is not viable from a security standpoint.

“The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act was passed in 2019. There was a provision for 107 seats, 24 of which were in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Then the delimitation commission came, and there was a change in the seats,’’ he said.

“The Reorganisation Act and delimitation were not in sync. That happened in December 2023. So our meter started running from December 2023,” he added.

He said that all parties in J&K advocated for holding the assembly election with the parliamentary polls, but the entire administrative machinery said it could not be done simultaneously. “Every assembly segment would have 10-12 candidates, which would mean more than 1,000 candidates. Every candidate has to be provided with forces. It was not possible at this time,” Kumar said.

Reacting to the CEC’s statement on assembly polls not being possible with Lok Sabha polls in J&K, the NC vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah, wrote on X, “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.”

Senior leader of the J&K Apni Party Ghulam Hassan Mir said, "If conditions are suitable for Lok Sabha (LS) polls, why not for assembly (AL) elections? Not holding assembly elections is a betrayal of the people and keeps them disempowered. We are deeply hurt by the decision not to hold elections in Jammu and Kashmir. While managing the day-to-day affairs of the government and addressing the needs of the people, assembly is necessary; one-man rule is not acceptable."

JKPCC president Vikar Rasool Wani wrote on X, “That the people of J&K were let down by the ECI to announce the assembly elections.’’ He said it is a complete disregard of the Supreme Court directive to promptly reinstate democracy.

The Supreme Court in its Article 370 verdict had asked the ECI to hold assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir by September 2024.

The assembly election is now likely to be held around September after the annual Amarnath Yatra, which will begin in June or early July, concludes.

The decision not to conduct assembly polls with the Lok Sabha polls has also not gone down well with many people in Kashmir.

There is an opinion among political observers that a third-time win for the BJP will help the party lure voters in J&K, especially the Hindu majority in Jammu. The regional parties and the Congress who are allies will struggle to mount a challenge to the incumbent BJP at the Centre controlling all the levers of power.

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