A team of the Election Commission of India is expected to visit J&K later this month to check the feasibility of holding simultaneous elections for parliament and the Assembly later this month. The team will hold talks with the political parties, security establishment and senior officials from state administration to take a call on the timing of the polls. There is already a conspicuous political support in the state for the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. Contrary to the Governor Satya Pal Malik’s statement that the PDP wanted Assembly elections delayed, the party has expressed itself in favour of the concurrent polls. In a recent interview, the PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti has sought early installation of a democratic government to put a stop to the ongoing practice of issuing “backdoor orders”. Other parties have similarly sought the early polls to put an early end to the Governor’s rule. Also, the J&K chief electoral officer Shailender Kumar has reportedly expressed his readiness for the conduct of both the polls simultaneously.
As for the public opinion is concerned, people in the Valley can’t be less bothered. The situation now is that not only people are not involved – an understandable state of affairs as the existing electoral arrangement doesnt include the gamut of their aspirations – but the political system has become inherently immune to change and evolution. So while the voting takes place, the sense of guilt associated with the ballot has refused to go.
In any case, the Election Commission team will take a decision on the polls based on the feedback from the state government and the political parties. The state government will be expected to take on board the opinion of the central government. In a recent statement, however, the home minister Rajnath Singh said it was for the election commission to “make up its mind on whether to hold parliament and assembly polls simultaneously or otherwise only after its visit to the state, factoring in the requirement and availability of the forces and other conditions”. This doesn’t show that the central government has formed any definite opinion on the issue.
There is no denying the fact, however, that a simultaneous Assembly and Parliament election will be a best possible scenario for the state. Elections are anyway a fraught time for the state, more so, for the Valley. It leads to rise in violence which, in turn, detrimentally affects the everyday peace and the economy. Now that the Parliament election has to be necessarily held by the middle of this year, it would be good for the state if the Assembly polls too are held concurrently. This would save the state from a long period of disruption. When Election Commission visits the state latter this month, more than anything else their decision should be guided by this reality of the state.
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