The National Conference on Wednesday alleged in a letter to the Election Commission that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary BVR Subramanium had presided over a meeting in which it was decided that the security cover of over 700 political leaders and workers would be withdrawn, despite having no authority to take such a decision.

“The decision, which has a direct bearing on the safety of political workers at a very crucial time, is politically motivated,” the National Conference wrote to the Election Commission.

The party said that only intelligence and security officers of the state and central governments can take decisions on security provided to political workers and leaders. “There is no place for any bureaucrat to decide on such a sensitive issue,” the party said. “Never in the past such a meeting was attended, let aside, presided by a civilian officer.”

The National Conference claimed that the decision to withdraw security cover “smacks of a conspiracy to sabotage the election process and jeopardise the personal safety of political workers”. The party alleged as evidence of this conspiracy that Subramanium and some senior police and civil service officers “browbeat” district magistrates and senior superintendents of police who had favoured simultaneous Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir along with the Lok Sabha polls.

“We have credible information that all the officers were strictly instructed to oppose the conduct of Assembly elections with the General Elections in Jammu and Kashmir,” the National Conference said. The party said that as a result, it feels the continued presence of these officers in the state is a hurdle to free and fair elections.

“We request the Election Commission of India to take necessary steps so that overt and covert attempts to sabotage the democratic process are foiled, and confidence of voters and political parties is restored in the state,” the National Conference wrote.

The Peoples Democratic Party also wrote to state Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar, claiming that withdrawing or downgrading the security cover of its leaders is an attempt to “demoralise and limit party activities”. “It is aimed to weaken the PDP and influence election process to help a selective bunch of people,” the party claimed. It also alleged that while security for its leaders had been withdrawn, those who advocate a “communal agenda” have been provided adequate cover.

“This selective approach to basic security considerations amounts to fixing the election results through tactical rigging as our leaders and workers are being denied level playing field,” the Peoples Democratic Party alleged. “In this backdrop, we urge your good self [the poll panel] to personally intervene and ensure that no favouritism is allowed in times of election process and security is not used a tool to influence or limit the activities.”

On April 5, the Narendra Modi-led government had announced that the Jammu and Kashmir government has withdrawn security provided to 919 “undeserving persons” since June 20, 2018, when Governor’s Rule was imposed in the state. As many as 2,768 police personnel and 389 vehicles have been freed as a result, the notification added.

Lok Sabha elections are being held in seven phases from April 11 and May 19, and the results will be declared on May 23. In Jammu and Kashmir, the polls are being held on April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29 and May 6.