Likely ECI visit to J&K raises hopes of assembly elections

The proposed visit of the Election Commission of India to Jammu and Kashmir likely this month has raised hopes of political parties that assembly polls in the Union territory could be held this year.

The last assembly elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014, five years before the erstwhile state was reorganised into two Union territories on August 5, 2019.

The Centre then set up a delimitation commission for J&K, which submitted its report in October last year. Recently, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said that the poll panel was aware that there’s a “vacuum” in the Union territory which needs to be filled. He said the polls will be held keeping in mind various factors, including weather and security concerns.

While the ECI is yet to announce the visit, local media reports have suggested it could happen this month.

BJP leader Darakhshan Andrabi said her party and its cadres were ready for the polls whenever the Election Commission decides to hold them. “We believe in democracy and democracy means elections. Our party and our cadres are ready for elections anytime,” Andrabi said.

She said the situation was good for holding the polls, but the final call will be taken by the EC.

“The government would want that the elections are held at the earliest. We want to take Kashmir forward, rest we will leave the decision to the Election Commission,” Andrabi added.

Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari said the proposed visit of the Election Commission to the Union Territory was a welcome step and the time had come to hold the polls.

“This is a welcome step. The EC visit has been long pending because the people of Jammu and Kashmir are yearning for elections. The visit is being viewed positively in light of statements made by the LG, who said the Jammu and Kashmir administration is ready for holding elections anytime,” Bukhari said.

“We hope they will take a decision once they are here, after meeting stakeholders, and announce the elections soon. We are ready and the elections are already delayed. People have been without an elected government for the last five years now,” he added.

National Conference spokesman Imran Nabi Dar said that there’s been no change in his party’s stand since a delegation led by party president Farooq Abdullah called on the Election Commission.

“Our contention and our points remain the same that there is no visible effort being made by the concerned agencies about conducting assembly elections which is overdue now,” Dar said.

He said Jammu and Kashmir is craving to have an elected government and there was no reason for them to further delay it.

“It’s the Election Commission that has categorically said that there is a political vacuum in Jammu and Kashmir. So they need to address that vacuum and that vacuum will be addressed only when we will have assembly elections like all other states in the country,” he added.

The spokesman said there is nothing that should prevent the Election Commission as it has already stated that all formalities for holding the elections are complete.

“In fact, the Union Home Ministry has also said that situation is getting better. The other aspect was the weather, which is also pleasant now,” he said.