Political parties differ over poll timing in Kashmir


Srinagar : Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday appeared divided over the timing of elections to the state legislative assembly due before the year-end.

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The three-member Election Commission (EC) team led by Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami met representatives of various political parties at Raj Bhawan in the summer capital Srinagar.

National Conference president Omar Abdullah didn’t oppose the timely conduct of the elections but his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart Mehbooba Mufti said time was not conducive for the polls in the state. The Communist Party of India-Marxist also favoured delay in the voting as the Congress maintained that they would abide by the EC decision.

The state is under governor’s rule since July 11, when the previous Congress-led coalition government was toppled after key ally Peoples Democratic Party withdrew support to chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad over the bitter Amarnath land row. The land row also revived the separatist movement in the Muslim-dominated valley, which saw huge protests in July and August.

Abdullah, after his two senior party members met the EC, said: “We have put forth our views before the Election Commission. The situation has slightly improved but much needs to be done to build confidence among the people.”

“The governor’s rule is the worst period of any democracy but people must participate in the election process, and unless that happens, elections would be meaningless,” he told the media.

Asked if his party would participate in the polls if held sooner, Abdullah said: “The question is not whether or not the National Conference takes part in the elections, the question is whether or not the people here are ready for the elections?

“We stand for a people participative election.”

Mufti also met the EC with her senior party leaders.

“We have clearly expressed the view that the time is not conducive for holding elections unless the wounds of the people heal,” Mufti told reporters after the meeting.

“More than elections, what we need right now is confidence building among the people. Trade is being started between the divided parts of Kashmir. Measures like this must be first allowed to register in the hearts and minds of the people before we go ahead with the election process,” said the PDP chief.

Communist leader Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami said: “The CPI-M does not believe in shying away from the electoral process, but unfortunately the political atmosphere in the state has been vitiated.

“I have told the EC that the time is not ripe for holding elections by November this year. We must wait for a little longer.”

Bhim Singh, the president of the Panthers Party, however, advocated timely elections as the Congress leader Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed said: “We have decided to go along with the decision taken by the EC.”

Elections commissioners Navin Chawla and Y.S. Qureshi accompanied the poll body delegation to the state.