The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday said Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir should not be held immediately as nomads from the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities are in migration phase right now, PTI reported. The elections can be held in November after they return from the upper altitudes to the plains, state BJP General Secretary Ashok Koul said.
“We are not in favour of deferring or delaying the Assembly elections,” Koul said, according to Kashmir News Service. “Had Assembly polls been held together with Parliamentary elections, it would have favoured our party. However, some parties demand holding Assembly elections immediately...[which] is not possible because Gujjar and Bakerwal, which are about 30 lakh voters, are in migration phase these days.”
These communities cannot be deprived of their voting rights, Koul said. “So once they return from grazing their stock from the hills, Assembly polls can be held,” he added.
The previous elected government to rule the state collapsed in June 2018 after the Bharatiya Janata Party withdrew from the ruling coalition led by Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party. This put the state under the governor’s rule. Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the state Assembly in November, and upon completion of six months of governor’s rule, president’s rule was imposed.
There was speculation that the Assembly elections might be conducted along with the Lok Sabha elections in April and May. On March 5, the Election Commission had said that almost all political parties in the state had favoured the idea. However, when the dates for the Lok Sabha polls were announced, the Election Commission did not give dates for Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir on account of security reasons. The decision was criticised by the state’s political parties.
The state has already voted for the Lok Sabha elections in five phases.