No delay in holding J&K Assembly polls: CEC

‘SFs fully geared up to hold free, fair elections’

Jammu: India’s Chief Election Commissioner, Rajiv Kumar on Wednesday said that there had been no delay from their side in holding Assembly elections in J&K and the reason was the dissonance between the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019 and the Delimitation Act, 2022 till December 2023.

Addressing a media conference here, the CEC, to a question on the perceived delay in holding Assembly elections in J&K, cited the “dissonance”.

“We know that according to the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, the number of Assembly seats was kept at 107 after reserving 24 seats from the Pakistan-occupied part of J&K. This left 83 Assembly seats, including 7 reserved for the SCs.

“Through the Delimitation Act, 2022, the number of Assembly seats went up to 114 with 90 Assembly seats, after allotting reservations for the STs. Then, there was a provision of 2 seats for migrants with one women’s seat and one nomination for the displaced persons of PoJK. This picture crystallised in December 2023, and thus, there has been no delay from our side. Just three months have passed and the season has just begun,” he said.

The CEC said a decision on whether the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls should be held together or separately would be taken shortly, keeping in view the discussions held with political parties, the District Magistrates, the Superintendents of Police, and other agencies.

He asserted that the EC “stands on three pillars and these are disclosure, disclosure, and disclosure”. “Nothing is hidden from the people,” he asserted.

He said the security forces are fully geared up to hold fair and unbiased polls in J&K and these agencies are well aware of the challenges they face.

To a question about when will the two vacancies of Election Commissioners be filled, Rajiv Kumar said: “I am not the appointer in this case and you have asked the question from the wrong person.”

The Commission will take a final call on holding concurrent Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in J&K after thorough consultations with the security agencies and political parties. “We equally concerned about LS and Assembly polls in J&K,” Kumar said

He said that the Commission wants LS and Assembly polls soon. “As far as holding the LS and Assembly polls simultaneously, we will hold thorough consultations with the security agencies and also get the feedback from the political parties,” he said, in reply to a query whether the Commission intends to hold LS and Assembly polls simultaneously.

Replying to a query about security needs, the CEC of India said that they will draw a sketch and see how much is the requirement for LS polls and Assembly polls. “We will also see how much will be the security requirement if both elections are held concurrently,” Kumar said.

He said that there are 86.9 lakh voters in J&K, including first-time voters and voters above 100 years of age. “We will ensure free and fair polls,” he said.

The CEC of India said that in case of any mischief, violence, or fake news, the same should be reported on the cVIGIL portal. “Action will follow within 100 minutes of the uploading of the complaint,” he said.

Regarding the ECI team’s visit to Kashmir and Jammu, Kumar said that they met various political parties in Srinagar, and the majority of them demanded concurrent LS and Assembly polls.

“Some parties complained that the security cover of their candidates has been trimmed unnecessarily, and they are not given permissions to carry out political activities,” he said.

Kumar said that the issue of less participation of migrant voters in the election process also popped up. “Official teams will visit migrant voters in Jammu and urge them to participate in polls,” he said.

He said of the total voters, there are 44 lakh male and 42 lakh female voters. “The ratio is almost the same,” he said. “There are 67,000 voters with disabilities, 77,290 voters over the age of 85, and 2,886 centenarians. Notably, over 3.4 lakh individuals are first-time voters, reflecting a vibrant and dynamic electoral landscape,” the CEC said.

The CEC said that the victory of the ballot is a festival of democracy,” he said, adding that for the first time, persons with disabilities will have a facility to vote from home.

“A team will visit the house of the disabled voter along with the candidate. The same will be videographed,” he said. It may be recalled that the Supreme Court in its judgment has stated that statehood to J&K should be granted, and Assembly polls be held before September 2024. (KNO)

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