Concerned by Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor G.C. Murmu’s statement that elections in the newly made union territory can be held only after the ongoing delimitation exercise, the Election Commission of India on Tuesday (July 28) said that decisions on the timing of elections can only be made by the poll body.
The Commission issued a statement in this regard, attributing Murmu’s remark to several media reports. Murmu was appointed as the first lieutenant governor of the newly made union territory in October, 2019. Elections have not been held in Jammu and Kashmir since the PDP-BJP coalition government collapsed in 2018.
“Election Commission takes exception to such statements and would like to state that in the Constitutional scheme of things, the timings etc. of elections is the sole remit of Election Commission of India,” the statement read.
“It would be proper for authorities other than Election Commission to refrain from making such statements which virtually tantamount to interfering with the Constitutional mandate of the Election Commission,” it said.
The Commission further said that it takes into consideration the relevant factors including “topography, weather, sensitivities arising out of regional and local festivities in the area(s) where the election is to take place” before deciding the timing of elections.
It said the current pandemic situation also has to be taken into consideration before taking a decision on the elections. The Commission had last month announced measures on postal ballots for voters above the age of 65 years, but it was withdrawn within a few days.
“In the instant case, the outcome of Delimitation is also germane to the decision,” it added.
Among other factors, the Commission said that the availability of central forces and railway coaches, etc. for the transportation of CPFs are also important to arrive at a decision on the timing of elections. “All this is done after meticulous homework by the senior officials of the Commission and a detailed assessment in due consultation with concerned authorities.”
Among the elections scheduled later this year are the assembly polls in Bihar and bypolls in Madhya Pradesh.
No elections have been held in Jammu and Kashmir since the government’s collapse in 2018. The central government had last August abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, thus revoking the special status of the erstwhile state and bifurcated it into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Following the Centre’s move on August 5, several prominent state leaders, including former chief ministers – Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah – were taken into preventive custody. Meanwhile, Omar, in an article on Monday, said he won’t contest any election as long as Jammu and Kashmir remains a union territory.