EC holds consultations with parties, stakeholders in J&K to review LS poll preparedness

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Srinagar: Political parties here on Tuesday urged the Election Commission to hold assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls as the panel started two-day consultations with stakeholders to review preparedness for the upcoming general elections.

The BJP too has expressed its readiness for simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and other officials of the poll panel, who arrived here on Monday for a three-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, held interactions with delegations from the National Conference (NC), PDP, BJP, CPI(M), Congress, and the Aam Aadmi Party, officials said here.

National Conference leader Nasir Aslam Wani, who led his party’s delegation, said they impressed upon the Election Commission the need for holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir together with the Lok Sabha polls.

“We told the commission that it has been 10 years that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been deprived of their democratic rights. So, the assembly elections be held along with Lok Sabha polls. The commission gave us a patient hearing,” Wani said.

He said conducting two elections separately in a year would disturb Jammu and Kashmir’s economy.

“The tourism sector here is very vibrant and people are expecting a huge rush of tourists. So, if two elections are held in a year (separately), then the economic activity will be disrupted. Also, it is the prime minister’s dream to have one nation, one election. So why not start that from Jammu and Kashmir,” the National Conference leader told reporters.

Wani said the party delegation also told the Election Commission that people here have apprehensions that the elections would not be fair. The EC should ensure a level-playing field in the elections, he said.

PDP leader Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura said his party also batted for holding assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously. “It is now up to the Election Commission to decide on this,” he told reporters after the meeting.

BJP leader R S Pathania said his party is ready for simultaneous polls. He alleged that the NC, PDP and the Congress were “frauds who have spread smokescreen in the name of half-truths to befool the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.

The BJP leader demanded that polling booths also be set up at places outside the Union territory where the members of the Kashmiri Pandit community have been living to facilitate their voting.

After the meeting with political parties, the poll panel held a detailed review of the election preparedness with district election officers and superintendents of police, officials said.

They said the EC was briefed about the security arrangements by the superintendents of police.

The district election officers apprised the commission of the preparedness and updated electoral rolls in their respective districts, the officials said.

Later in the evening, the Election Commission officials interacted with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer P K Pole and nodal officers of the state police, they added.

The Election Commission officials will hold similar interactions in Jammu on Wednesday and hold a media interaction there.

There has been a growing demand from political quarters in Jammu and Kashmir that the Election Commission should hold assembly polls here simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls or immediately after the general elections.

Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad have raised this demand in the past two weeks.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary Atal Dulloo on Saturday held a meeting with the civil and police administration to sensitise them about the measures to be taken for the smooth conduct of the Lok Sabha polls, due in April-May.

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