The full Election Commission is visiting Srinagar this weekend most likely Saturday to assess the situation amidst an overwhelming demand for holding Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir on schedule, notwithstanding the widespread damage to life and property caused by the recent floods. The visit of the Commission – Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath and ECs HS Brahma and Nasim Zaidi – comes close on the heels of a trip made by DEC Vinod Zutshi last week for an assessment whether elections can be held now or not in view of the massive devastation Srinagar and parts of the valley suffered during the recent floods.
The term of the six-year Assembly expires on 5 thJanuary next year (2015) and the election process should be completed before that and there have been indications that the Centre was also in favour of holding polls on schedule.
Highly-placed sources said that the Commission firm on holding assembly elections on scheduled time will meet leaders of various mainstream political parties like the ruling National Conference, Congress, PDP and the BJP and take their views on whether to hold elections on schedule.
The ruling National Conference is opposed to holding of the polls on schedule and in the words of state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah “people are struggling to rebuild their lives.”
However, its ally Congress, main opposition PDP and BJP are favouring the polls before the term of the outgoing Assembly ends.
BJP, which heads the government at the Centre, is said to be counting on the gains it expects to make in the Jammu region mainly on the back of its impressive showing in the Lok Sabha polls in May.
Abdullah, who was in Delhi on Tuesday, said the situation in the state was not conducive for holding elections due to the recent floods and warned that there could be “zero percentage turn out” in Srinagar. Sources said Chief Minister’s strong recommendation for postponement of elections was turned down by the Home Minister Rajnath Singh with the reply hat ‘let the Election Commission of India take the final call as the commission is an independent body and no government is empowered to interfere in the decisions and working of the commission’.