Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat said on Thursday that fresh Assembly polls must be held in Jammu and Kashmir within six months according to a Supreme Court order, a day after Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the state legislature.

“The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls must be held on the first occasion before May,” Rawat said according to PTI. “They could be held before Parliament elections also.” The term of the present Lok Sabha ends in May.

However, Rawat said the poll panel will decide the dates for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections “after considering all aspects”.

Malik dissolved the Assembly after the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress staked claim to form a government, claiming the support of 56 MLAs in the 87-member legislature. However, dissident Peoples Democratic Party leader Sajad Lone also staked claim, with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

‘Murder of democracy’: Opposition parties

Meanwhile, Opposition parties claimed that the governor’s decision to dissolve the Assembly was unconstitutional. Congress leader Manish Tewari called it a “murder of democracy” and as “unconstitutional, immoral and unethical”, PTI reported.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram tweeted that instead of the Westminster model of democracy, it is the “Gujarat model” which has appealed to the governor. “As long as no one staked a claim to form government, J&K governor was happy to keep Assembly under suspension,” Chidambaram tweeted. “The moment someone staked a claim, he dissolved the Assembly!”

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said the dissolution of the Assembly was a decision “taken in haste and not keeping in mind the constitutional spirit”, Greater Kashmir reported. “Why was not the Assembly dissolved when the previous coalition government fell in June?” CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami asked. “Probably to find possibilities to form a new alliance.”

Tarigami claimed that the BJP-led government at the Centre was “unnerved” by negotiations between three other parties to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir, that it dissolved the state Assembly.

“Maybe the governor took the decision on the instructions of ruling party in New Delhi,” Tarigami added. “Unfortunately, whatever suites the ruling party in Delhi is being imposed in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Loktantrik Janata Dal chief Sharad Yadav also condemned the dissolution of the Assembly, PTI reported. “Democracy has been killed in Jammu and Kashmir by dissolving the Assembly,” he claimed. He asked the Centre “not to play petty politics for the sake of remaining in power”.