ECI for Anantnag by-poll before winter; seeks report on security
The Election Commission of India has sought a report from the Jammu and Kashmir government whether the situation was conducive to hold Anantnag by-poll before November 15.
A senior official at the Civil Secretariat said that the poll body has sought the report from the JK government on the security situation in the state, and whether it is was conducive to holding the by-poll under the present circumstances before the winter sets in.
“The government has not responded yet. But the government does not want to hold the polls till normalcy returns in south Kashmir,” the official said.
According to national media reports, the ECI wants the polls to be held before 15 November in south Kashmir; otherwise, the winter snow will not let it take place before March 2018.
The official said that the security agencies have told the government that south Kashmir by-poll will be difficult to hold under the present circumstances.
“The state administration including security agencies do not want to take any chances that could disturb further situation in south Kashmir. Ensuring peaceful election campaign and polls under present circumstances seems a tough task,” the official said.
“The security forces want to continue counter militancy-related activities. It will not be possible to hold polls when security agencies are busy with anti-militant operations.”
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, said he was not aware about CEI’s communiqué to JK government about security situation.
While senior PDP minister Abdul Rehman Veeri said that state government will respond as per the situation in the state. “If the ECI has sought a report, the state government will reply after accessing the situation in south Kashmir,” Veeri said.
The election was originally scheduled to be held on 12 April, but was put off owing to the unrest in the state, which took a violent turn in the Srinagar by-election on 9 April. Only 7 per cent voters turned out for that poll, and eight people were killed in poll-related violence.
Earlier, the J&K government had also advised the ECI against holding the election in Anantnag in April, saying the situation was “not conducive to holding free and fair elections”. In view of the state government’s report, as well as inputs received from the Chief Electoral Officer of the state, the EC moved the bypoll to 25 May, and then postponed it indefinitely, as the security situation did not improve.
Anantnag seat fell vacant in June last after Mehbooba Mufti won the assembly bypolls, as required by law, to continue as the Chief Minister. Earlier, the PDP had chosen J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti’s brother Mufti Tasaduq Hussain to contest from Anantnag constituency against Congress state president G A Mir.