New Delhi, April 10
The Election Commission tonight deferred the Anantnag Lok Sabha bypoll to May 25, citing inputs by the Jammu and Kashmir Government that law-and-order situation is not conducive. The by-election was to be held on April 12.
The EC notification said the state administration apprehends that “violent attempts” can be made by miscreants to thwart the poll process.
It pointed at large scale violence which took place in Srinagar yesterday during a similar bypoll.
Earlier the Election Commission today discussed the unprecedented election-day violence and poor voter turnout in the bypoll to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat. Eight people were killed yesterday in firing by security forces in the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll where only 7.14 per cent of the electorate came out to cast their vote.
Sources privy to the meeting said top Commission brass met to discuss past precedents and various options available to it, so that the poll panel could take a considered view under these circumstances.
In 2014 general elections, 26 per cent voting was recorded on this seat, while in the polls of 1989, Mohammad Shafi Bhat won uncontested.
The previous lowest turnout in the prestigious seat was 11.93 per cent in 1999 when Omar Abdullah had defeated Mehbooba Mufti in a straight contest.
J&K former chief minister and National Conference stalwart Farooq Abdullah, who had lost the seat in the 2014 elections, is locked in a straight fight with Nazir Ahmad Khan of the ruling PDP along with seven other candidates.
State Chief Electoral Officer Shantmanu had yesterday said that a decision on repoll in violence-hit areas will be taken after examining the diaries of the presiding officers.
Almost 70 per cent of the polling booths in Budgam district were abandoned by the polling staff due to the spate of violent protests in several areas, officials in Srinagar had said.
Meanwhile PDP candidate from Anantnag, Tasaduq Mufti this morning had appealed to the Election Commission to postpone the Lok Sabha by-poll to the constituency in view of the large-scale violence during the polling in Srinagar.”I appeal to the EC to postpone the elections to a later favourable date,” Mufti told reporters here.
Anantnag constituency, spread over four districts of Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian and Anantnag, is scheduled to go to polls on Wednesday.
Mufti said the state government had written to the poll panel from time to time that the situation was not conducive for holding elections in Kashmir at the moment.Asked whether he would withdraw from the contest if the EC rejected his appeal, Mufti said: “I will withdraw if that helps the cause.”
Latching onto the PDP candidate’s demand for postponement of Anantnag by-poll in view of violence, NC leader Omar Abdullah today said it was an “indictment” of the government headed by his sister.”Tassaduq’s statement is an indictment of his sister @MehboobaMufti’s government and its abject failure. How can the BJP not see this (sic),” the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister posted on Twitter.”EC is well within its powers to postpone or countermand Anantnag election but if so @MehboobaMufti must resign & Governor should take charge (sic),” he said in another tweet.
However, opposition leaders in Jammu and Kashmir today clashed with those of ruling PDP and BJP during a meeting convened by the state Chief Electoral Officer to solicit the views of political parties on postponing the Anantnag polls and repolling in some booths in Srinagar.
During the meeting National Conference leaders objected to the statement of PDP’s representative Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra who reiterated views of its candidate Mufti Tassadaq demanding postponing of elections to Anantnag.
The National Conference represented by senior leaders Ali Mohammed Sagar and Akbar Lone said that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti should tender her resignation for failing to ensure peaceful elections in the Kashmir valley.
The delegation said the remarks of Hussain was a clear and unambiguous indictment of his sister Mehbooba and her government and her abject and total failure to govern the state.”Based on the fact that her own brother and her party’s parliamentary candidate has clearly declared the PDP-BJP government a complete failure, Mehbooba Mufti has lost the moral right to continue in her chair.”The moment PDP made an emergency appeal for the deferment of elections in Anantnag, the PDP-BJP government became untenable and illegitimate in the state. The chief minister should tender her resignation without any further delay,” the delegation said.Lone also entered into a verbal dual with BJP representative and Parra and accused them of blatantly lying to the people of the state.”Before claiming credit here to hold elections, they should have consulted their masters in Delhi. We had objected to holding of elections but she (Mehbooba) had claimed that the situation was right,” he said.
Later, National Conference complained to the Election Commission about the presence of Parra at the meeting as he was a government servant.
When contacted, Parra said he represented the youth wing of the PDP and added that was a member secretary of Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council from where he was getting an honorarium. Congress candidate from Anantnag G A Mir, who could not attend the meeting, said his party was not in favour of postponing the elections. “When we objected to it earlier, no one paid any heed. Since Mufti Tasaduq has sensed defeat, he is finding ways and means to run away from the contest.”He should hold his own sister responsible for this,” he said.According to an official release of the state Election Commission, CEO Shantmanu had briefed the Chief Election Commission in the morning and later submitted a report after holding a meeting with political parties.
New Delhi, April 10