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ECI to hold fresh discussion with MHA on JK polls

New Delhi, Mar 6: The Election Commission of India (ECI) would call Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and other top officials the Ministry of Home Affairs for consultation – second time in less than a month –to firm up its view on whether to hold Assembly elections and Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir simultaneously, officials said.
The meeting, to be held within a day or two, bears significance as the MHA as well as the Jammu and Kashmir administration have already conveyed to the poll panel the difficulties in holding simultaneous elections, while almost all political parties in the state batted for holding the two polls together.
“The EC will have a meeting with the Union home secretary and other officers of the MHA within a day or two to firm up its view on assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir,” an official said.
Gauba and his team had a meeting with the EC on February 18 when they conveyed the difficulties in holding the assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir simultaneously due to the prevailing security situation in the state.
During the meeting, the MHA team apprised the EC about the ground realities in the state, strength of central forces currently deployed and the additional forces which could be made available for election duties. The Jammu and Kashmir administration, which is under the President’s rule, has also apprised the poll body about the security situation in the state and the constraint in holding assembly and Lok Sabha polls together.
The EC is expected to announce the schedule for Lok Sabha elections in the next few days. Assembly polls are expected to be held with Lok Sabha elections simultaneously in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, another official said. The Governor’s rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir on June 19, 2018 after the state plunged into a political crisis when the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government was reduced to minority following withdrawal of support by the 25-member BJP in the state. The assembly had been kept under the suspended animation then. However, the governor on November 21 dissolved the 87-member state assembly after the PDP, supported by the Congress and arch rivals National Conference, tried to stake claim to form the government.
The Governor had cited “extensive horse-trading”, the “impossibility” of forming a stable government by coming together of political parties with “opposing political ideologies” and “serious doubts about the longevity of any such arrangement where there are competing claims of majority” as the reasons behind the decision. When the governor’s rule expired on December 19, 2018, President’s rule was imposed in the state as under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, there is no provision for extension of governor’s rule.