A day before the Budget session of Parliament, the Congress at an all party meeting with the Government raised the issue of the conduct of Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir . The meeting among other opposition leaders was attended by the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and the National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah. Congress told the government that there was no need for Presidents rule in J&K. The party rightly highlighted the fact that on one hand the union Government said that the environment was not conducive for polls and that is why Presidents rule had been imposed and on the other the Centre celebrated the fact that the Panchayat and Lok Sabha elections had been held peacefully. However if the recent extension of the president’s rule in the state is anything to go by, the central government remains undecided about holding Assembly polls in thre state.
There’s a silver lining though. The Election Commission has recently issued a statement stating that J&K elections would be announced after the annual Amarnath Yatra beginning on July 1. This is in keeping with the position of the state administration that didn’t want assembly polls in the near future in view of the ongoing tourist season and the upcoming Amarnath Yatra in the Valley.
The centre has also been against early Assembly polls. Earlier too, both state and central governments opposed the idea of concurrent assembly and the Lok Sabha polls. That time, the reason offered was the deteriorating security situation in the state. But certainly if Lok Sabha polls have been held without an incident, the Assembly election too could be held. Earlier, almost all J&K political parties had unanimously batted for early elections. The people in the state also preferred simultaneous polls for reasons of the sheer amount of disruption the elections trigger in a conflict-ridden state. But the EC chose to ignore both politicians and the public. It is difficult to see why. Apparently there seems no reason or rationale for the EC to have deferred the Assembly polls in the first place. If the deteriorating security situation was the reason, the elections have been held in the state in even worse conditions.
Ideally, the Assembly elections should be held in right earnest after the Parliament polls. By doing this the EC would be responding to the public demand. And not doing so will only further deepen the sense of alienation among the people. Here’s thus hoping that the EC finally does the right thing by announcing the dates for the Assembly polls after the Amarnath election.