Kashmir: Concurrent assembly, LS polls in J&K not viable due to security complications – CEC

IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir

Jammu, Mar 16: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar Saturday stated that it was not possible for the Election Commission of India (ECI) to conduct assembly polls, concurrently with the parliamentary polls, in J&K due to security complications.

CEC said the entire (J&K) administrative machinery in unanimity conveyed that it (simultaneous assembly polls) was not possible as extra forces would be needed to provide security cover to over 1000 (assembly) candidates.

Kumar, however, asserted that after the parliamentary polls, assembly elections would be conducted in J&K, “as early as possible.”

CEC stated this, while responding to a specific query during the ECI presser in the union capital, convened to announce the schedule of the parliamentary polls 2024; assembly elections in four states and by-polls in several states.

Describing the question as “very important”, he said, “We are very conscious of this issue. On this account, ECI had to face accusations also for delay in the conduct of assembly polls there. Even when we went there, many political parties asked us as to why ECI was not conducting it. Some of them even said that they had to go to the Supreme Court to nudge ECI to conduct polls there. They also questioned us as to why we took so long to initiate the process of assembly polls.”

Asserting that the vital issue needed explanation from the ECI side, he said, “I want to clarify that J&K’s Reorganisation Act was passed in 2019. In that Act, there were 107 assembly seats, out of which 24 were reserved for Pak-occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK). Out of remaining 83 seats, seven seats were for Scheduled Castes but for Scheduled Tribes, there was nil seat. In 2022, Delimitation Commission was set up and the process of delimitation was set into motion there.”

Kumar explained that when the delimitation process was completed, the Commission’s report was notified. In the report, the number of seats was increased from 107 to 114 in assembly. Excluding seats reserved for PoJK, the number of 83 seats rose to 90 in (J&K) assembly.

“Another new feature was added that nine seats (out of 90) were reserved for Scheduled Tribes. Besides, two more amendments, as per the directions of Delimitation Commission, were made i.e., one – reservation of two seats for migrants, out of whom one should be a woman and second provision was for nomination of one Displaced Person (DP) from PoJK,” he said.

CEC pointed out it simply meant that the J&K Reorganisation Act and Delimitation Act were not in sync and so there was no occasion for the Election Commission to conduct elections till that (syncing) happened.

“When did that happen? That happened in December 2023 when the J&K Reorganisation (Amendment) Act, 2023 was brought. So, for ECI, the process to initiate assembly election exercise started in December. During our visit there, all political parties asked for concurrent assembly and parliamentary elections,” he informed.

“We respect it (demand). We feel that it is our duty and we’ll conduct it. However, the entire administrative machinery in unison said that it could not hold concurrent assembly and LS elections.

When asked about the reason for negating this possibility, the answer was – when assembly constituencies would go to polls concurrently (with the parliamentary elections), in every assembly, there would be around 10-12 candidates. This means there will be around over 1000 candidates in the election fray,” CEC explained, while quoting the response of J&K administrative machinery.

He further elaborated that in J&K, due to security reasons, every candidate would have to be provided with minimum two section force.

“Two section force means we would require extra companies, each comprising 400-500 personnel. Going by security reasons, this (to spare extra companies) was not possible during a massive parliamentary exercise underway in such a large country. But we stand committed that immediately after the conduct of parliamentary polls, (because by then availability of forces will be there), we will hold assembly elections there (in J&K) as early as possible,” CEC Kumar said.

Notably, during the presser on March 13 in Jammu while winding-up ECI team’s 3-day J&K visit, CEC had chosen not to answer query of Greater Kashmir related to feedback vis-à-vis security concerns in J&K, with particular reference to assembly elections, from the Union Home Ministry during deliberations with ECI officials before the latter embarked on the UT visit.

Today, he made no reference to the Home Ministry yet described “security concerns” flagged by J&K administrative machinery as the reason for not holding concurrent assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

During the Jammu presser, he had stated that the decision about simultaneous assembly and parliamentary polls would be made after taking into account (gathered) inputs of all stakeholders, including political parties and considering “security complications and implications.”__GK News