Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have expressed disappointment at the Election Commission not announcing the dates for Assembly elections in the Union territory.

On Saturday, the poll panel announced the dates of the Lok Sabha elections and said that voting will be held in seven phases from April 19 to June 1. It also said that Assembly polls for Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim will be held simultaneously with the general elections.

The results of the Assembly polls will also be announced on June 4 along with those of the Lok Sabha elections.

While announcing the schedule, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar cited security reasons for not holding the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir simultaneously with the parliamentary polls.

Following this, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said there was “something fishy” in the decision, reported PTI.

“If there are conducive conditions for the parliamentary election, how is it not alright for the state election?” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister told the news agency.

His son and party leader Omar Abdullah took to social media to say that the Election Commission was “unable to” conduct Assembly polls in the Union territory despite acknowledging that they are due.

National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said that the poll panel had put the Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir in a “deep freeze” again.

The People’s Democratic Party alleged that a crucial democratic space is being “strategically denied” to the people of Jammu and Kashmir for the last 10 years.

“So much so that even the panchayat and municipal elections are not happening here when people are talking about conducting the parliamentary polls,” said party spokesperson Mohit Bhan. “We are absolutely sorry for the kind of management and affairs that are being run today at the whims and fancies of a certain political party. We strongly object to this.”

His party colleague Naeem Akhtar said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir were facing “exclusion” from the democratic process. “The BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] will hold the election when it suits them,” said Akhtar.

He said the fact that Assembly polls are not being held in the Union territory does not “make much of a difference to us as any new government will not be same as the earlier governments”.

“The new government under the present scheme of things is not even a glorified municipality,” said Akhtar.

Meanwhile, the BJP defended the Election Commission’s move.

“We also wanted the Assembly election to be held with the Lok Sabha polls,” said Ravinder Raina, the party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit chief. “But it is the decision of the EC, which has said the Assembly polls will be held after the general election. It is a welcome step. There may have been security concerns.”

The Union territory has not seen an Assembly election for a decade. While Jammu and Kashmir has an Assembly, it is currently ruled by a lieutenant governor who reports to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

What the EC said

Kumar on Saturday said that although all political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have demanded Assembly polls, the entire administration in the Union territory has refused to hold simultaneous elections because of security considerations.

He said the Election Commission was committed to holding Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir as soon as possible after the Lok Sabha exercise.

“During our recent visit to Srinagar and Jammu, the Jammu and Kashmir Administration told us that two elections cannot be held at the same time due to more security requirements,” said the chief election commissioner.

He said the administration informed them that there would roughly be 10 to 12 candidates for each Assembly segment.

“This means that approximately, there will be 1,000 candidates in fray,” said Kumar. “This means each candidate needs to be given proper security cover and for that, there was more requirement of additional forces.”

In 2019, then-Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora also cited security reasons for the delay in holding Assembly polls.

“Availability of security forces is a constraint,” Arora had said, reported The Indian Express. “EC cannot be non-cognisant of the situation on the ground and the feedback of the state administration.”

Months later, the BJP-led Central government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The erstwhile state was also split into two Union territories.