The Election Commission of India on Tuesday said that almost all political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have called for holding Assembly polls in the state along with the Lok Sabha elections, PTI reported. They have all expressed complete faith in the poll panel, said Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, who led an Election Commission team to gauge the state’s preparedness for the elections.

The team on Tuesday held discussions with the representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress, National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the National Panthers Party.

“On the issue of need for elections, almost all political parties voiced the need to have both Parliamentary and Assembly elections conducted at the earliest in the state, saying that recent turnout in the Panchayat and urban local bodies’ elections suggests that general population in the state wishes to have their democratically elected government in place,” said Arora. He said the party representatives had expressed faith that the Election Commission would fulfil its constitutional mandate to conduct free and fair elections in the state.

Arora said all political parties had stressed on the need for adequate security arrangements for both voters and candidates in the run-up to the upcoming elections. The poll panel will announce its decision on holding simultaneous elections in the state later in New Delhi, he said, adding that they had taken into account views of all the political parties as well as the state administration.

Jammu and Kashmir has been under President’s rule since December 19, 2018. In June 2018, the ruling coalition of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Peoples Democratic Party collapsed, following which Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the state Assembly on November 21, and upon completion of six months of governor’s rule, president’s rule was imposed.

‘We have made EVMs a football’

Arora refuted claims that electronic voting machines can be tampered with, ANI reported. “We have made EVMs a football,” he said. “If the result is X, then EVM is good and if the result is Y, the EVM is not good. It is as if the EVM is voting.”

He said elections had been conducted smoothly in several states last year and the results were different everywhere. “The entire manufacturing process of EVMs is supervised by highly respected technocrats,” he said.

In the upcoming elections, voter-verifiable paper audit trails will be used at polling booths along with EVMs for the first time in the state, said Arora.