Election Commission of India observers will on Thursday visit Jammu and Kashmir to assess the “ground situation” for holding Assembly elections in the state.
Governor’s Rule was imposed in the state in June last year after the Bharatiya Janata Party pulled out of its coalition government with the Peoples Democratic Party. President’s Rule was imposed in December.
On March 10, the poll body had appointed former Indian Administrative Service officers Vinod Zutshi and Noor Muhammad, and former Indian Police Service officer AS Gill the special observers for Kashmir.
Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar told Greater Kashmir on Wednesday that the three Election Commission observers will interact with representatives of mainstream political parties and district election officers. “They will reach Srinagar tomorrow [Thursday],” he said. “They will have a similar itinerary on Friday in Jammu.” Kumar said the panel will also meet state Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam and Director General of Police Dilbag Singh.
The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, and the results will be declared on May 23. The decision not to announce dates for Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir was criticised by National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti earlier this week, who described it as a sign of the Union government’s “sinister designs”.
“Delaying the Assembly polls beyond six-month period after the dissolution of the Assembly is a violation of the Supreme Court directives,” Jammu and Kashmir Congress President Ghulam Ahmad Mir said on Wednesday. “The Governor’s rule is a short-term arrangement and it cannot continue for a longer period.” National Conference General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar labelled it a “subversion of democracy”.
However, National Conference leaders will not meet the observers on Thursday, a spokesperson for the party said. He said that the party has already made its position on Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly polls clear. “Our demand of having simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the state in our earlier meetings with the Election Commission team remains as it is.”
The Election Commission had not announced poll dates for the state citing security concerns.