EC discusses conduct of Assembly polls in J&K with MHA officials

JK News Live

Panel likely to take into account SC’s Sept 30 deadline
Meeting comes days ahead of 2-day UT visit

JAMMU, Mar 9: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is understood to have given detailed briefing to the Election Commission of India (ECI) on security situation in Jammu and Kashmir for conduct of Lok Sabha elections in the Union Territory. The briefing comes ahead of the Commission’s two day visit to the UT on March 12 and 13.
Jammu and Kashmir will be getting second highest number of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies after West Bengal for the Parliamentary polls scheduled to be held in April and May.

The EC top brass is also learnt to have discussed with Home Ministry officials the possibility of holding Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir alongside State Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, official sources told the Excelsior.

While the Supreme Court had in December last directed the EC to hold Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir by September 30, there was no official word on whether Assembly polls in J-K can be held with Lok Sabha polls expected to take place in April-May.

Whenever Assembly elections are held in J-K, they will be the first since Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two Union Territories in 2019.

The electoral exercise in Jammu and Kashmir is usually spread over a month.

Following the delimitation, the number of Assembly seats has gone up from 83 to 90, excluding the seats allocated to Pakistan Occupied Jammu Kashmir. Besides, there is provision of five nominated seats including two each for women and Kashmiri migrants and one for PoJK refugee.
In December last, the Supreme Court had directed the poll panel to hold assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir by September 30.

The top MHA officials have given detailed briefing to the Election Commission of India on security scenario in different States/UTs of the country especially the sensitive ones like Jammu and Kashmir where election exercise always remain very tough and is expected to be staggered to five phases for an equal number of Lok Sabha seats.

“After receiving briefing from the top MHA officials, the Election Commission including Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar will meet top officials and other stakeholders including representatives of various national as well as regional political parties during their two-day tour in Jammu and Kashmir,” the sources said.

The Commission will take detailed security assessment for Parliamentary polls to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the Union Territory. They are also expected to discuss the possibility of conduct of Assembly elections in the UT.

“The Election Commission’s visit is aimed at taking detailed assessment of security situation as well as election preparedness to ensure maximum turnout for the polls,” the sources said, adding the Commission wants to take independent view of the situation before formal announcement of the elections.

Jammu and Kashmir has five Lok Sabha seats including Jammu, Udhampur, Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag-Poonch-Rajouri (APR). All of them are expected to go to polls in separate phases i.e. in a total of five phases.
Jammu and Udhampur constituencies could go to elections in two initial phases followed by Srinagar, Baramulla and APR, the sources said, adding that lone Lok Sabha seat in the Union Territory of Ladakh may see election in last or second last phase. In 2019 Parliamentary polls, Ladakh seat was part of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources said the Election Commission has sought 3.4 lakh Central Armed Police Force personnel for Lok Sabha and four Assembly polls.

With nearly 97 crore voters, the Commission would set up approximately 12.5 lakh polling stations across India.
The EC also met top Railway officials to discuss smooth transportation of Election material and paramilitary forces for election duties.

The Election Commission has already approved deployment of 635 paramilitary companies in Jammu and Kashmir for Lok Sabha polls.

In 2019, the Election Commission had announced the Parliamentary polls on March 10 and the elections were held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.

Jammu & Kashmir is without an elected Government since June 19, 2018 when BJP withdrew support to Mehbooba Mufti-led Government, citing deteriorating security situation in the erstwhile State.

Besides deployment of 635 companies of paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir, the Election Commission has also approved posting of 57 companies in Ladakh which has lone Lok Sabha seat.

In 2019, Ladakh was part of undivided Jammu and Kashmir but it was made a separate Union Territory on August 5, 2019 after being separated from erstwhile State of J&K. (By Daily Excelsior )

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