A team of Election Commission of India (ECI) reached here Wednesday afternoon on election preparedness in Jammu and Kashmir . The team has come here to assess the post-floods situation, hold review with Election Department officials, District Electoral Officers (DEOs), political parties and other stakeholders before taking a final decision on holding Assembly election in the State, which were due in November-December this year.
Highly placed sources told Kashmir News Service (KNS) that the ECI team headed by Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi arrived here Wednesday afternoon on election preparedness mission in flood ravaged Kashmir valley to discuss election preparedness and make an assessment as to whether the Assembly elections can be held in November-December or they had to be deferred in view of heavy floods in various parts of the State, which killed about 300 persons, injured scores of others and rendered lakhs of people homeless.
The team of the Election Commission of India (ECI) is scheduled to a hold video conferencing with Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Umang Narula ,other senior officers of the State Election Department and District Electoral Officers (DEOs’) to discuss with them the preparedness for the Assembly elections.Sources said the CEO and District Election Officers (DEOs’) are likely to brief Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi on the post flood situation in Kashmir valley and the possibility of holding elections in flood ravaged Kashmir valley. Meanwhile the Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi has sent invites to all mainstream political parties for attending a meeting on poll preparedness tomorrow (Thursday) at 5,00 P.M at SKICC Srinagar. Earlier the Election Commission had to defer the publication of final electoral rolls from October 1 to 15 as some of the DEOs in Kashmir and Poonch district of Jammu hadn’t been able to complete the task in view of their preoccupation with relief and rehabilitation for the flood victims.
Several other aspects like weather conditions in the State in December figured in the meeting .Tomorrow morning, the Deputy Election Commissioner will interact with all DEOs through video conferencing and take their assessment of the situation including preparedness for Assembly elections. He would take district wise assessment of the situation from the DEOs including number of polling stations damaged in the floods, publication of electoral rolls on October 15 and all other issues related to the elections.
The video conferencing was expected to last about two hours.Sources said ECI (Election Commission Of India) team headed by Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi would also hold meeting with recognized national and state political parties (two representatives from each party) and take their view point on holding or deferring the Assembly elections. He will take assessment of the situation on holding the Assembly elections from all political parties in their meeting. It is in place to mention here that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has already clarified that relief and rehabilitation is the top priority of his government and opposition Peoples’ Democraric Party (PDP) has declared the conduct of assembly elections a non issue, However Congress party the main ally of ruling National Conference and the opposition Bhartiya Janta Party ( BJP) have called for the conduct of assembly elections on date, Sources privy to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that Chief Minister as head of the government will propose deferment of assembly elections till April next year to ensure rehabilitation of flood hit people of Jammu & Kashmir before the conduct of assembly elections but Congress part of the government headed by Deputy Chief Tara Chand is expected to propose conduct of elections on due date, Sources in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party told KNS that party representative is meeting is likely to convey its reservation on the conduct of assembly elections on time, A senior Congress leader said that the party will propose conduct of elections on time , BJP leaders too are likely to propose conduct of assembly elections on due date.
Term of the Legislative Assembly expires on January 19 and the new Assembly had to be in place before that, which means the Election Commission had to hold elections in the State before the middle of December. However, if the Election Commission felt that post-flood scenario was not conducive for holding the elections, it could defer the polls, which could lead to imposition of Governor’s rule in the State on January 19. In that scenario, the Assembly elections then can be held in April-May next year (2015). Sources said Deputy Election Commissioner will submit his report to the full Election Commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath after returning to New Delhi. It is to be seen whether the full Election Commission led by Sampath decides to undertake a visit to Jammu and Kashmir or takes decision on holding or deferring the elections on the basis of the report of Deputy Election Commissioner.