SRINAGAR: The central government on Thursday gave an evasive reply regarding the conduct of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

The government also gave no specific reply regarding the timeline for the polls during the ongoing winter session of the parliament.

“The Election Commission of India (the Commission) has informed that, under its powers, duties, and functions as outlined in Article 324, along with Article 172 (1) of the Constitution and section 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951), the Commission is constitutionally mandated to hold General Elections. This responsibility extends to constituting the new House of the People in Parliament and new Legislative Assemblies in the States,” said Minister of State in the Ministry of Law and Justice, Parliamentary Affairs, and Culture, Arjun Ram Meghwal.

Meghwal made this statement in reply to Congress Rajya Sabha member Syed Nasir Hussaina’s question. The query sought information on whether the government is planning to conduct assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir and, if so, the details, including the timeline for the commencement and completion of the assembly polls process.

“Further, the Commission considers all relevant aspects such as law and order situation in the State, school/college examinations, festivals, weather conditions, holidays under the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (26 of 1881) and availability of Central Armed Police Forces as well as availability of Electronic Voting Machine/Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail and conducive atmosphere to conduct election before finalizing the dates of poll and counting while announcing any election,” he said.

The statement comes two days after the government said that it was ready to hold Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir whenever the Election Commission (EC) takes a final decision in the matter.

Intervening in the discussion on the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill two days ago, the minister of state in the prime minister’s office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh had said “Whenever the EC announces it (Assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir), we are ready”.

He said this in response to a demand from opposition parties to hold early Assembly polls in the Union Territory.

“The EC has its mechanism of gathering inputs according to its requirements and it will take a final call. Let us all trust the wisdom of the EC and not appear to be interfering in its functioning,” the minister said.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah wanted to know from the BJP-led Centre why Assembly polls are not being held in Jammu and Kashmir.

Participating in the discussion, Congress leader Manish Tewari also sought to know about the election and when statehood would be restored in Jammu and Kashmir.

He wondered that at a time when the treasury benches are claiming that normalcy has been restored in Jammu and Kashmir, “why elections” are not being held.

Jamyang Tsering Namgyal of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had said that peace in Jammu and Kashmir was “more important” than elections.

He said after the abrogation of Article 370, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has improved and investments have started pouring in.

National Conference (NC) MP Hasnain Masoodi had also demanded early polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said the government should tell the truth to the country and not spread the illusion of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. (GNS)

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