As the BJP is holding rallies all across Jammu and Kashmir highlighting the achievements of its government's nine-year rule at the Centre, in Jammu and Kashmir it is talking about “unprecedented development” but is evading questions about holding Assembly polls there.
While the Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri during his two-day visit to Jammu highlighted the achievements of the BJP government, when asked about the Assembly elections, he only said Jammu and Kashmir is going through a transition phase. “See, you were going through an insurgency, you should see what was the situation earlier and what is the current situation. This progress has taken place only after the law and order and security situation has improved. After that people, who have to take a decision will take a decision,” he said. In his address, the minister said the situation has drastically improved in Jammu and Kashmir with the longest tunnel coming up on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. As per him, the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A was an unprecedented development that has taken place in Jammu and Kashmir.
Under Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh had a separate constitution called the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, while Article 35A prohibited people from outside from buying property in Jammu and Kashmir and ensured job reservations for residents and voting rights for J&K people only.
While the BJP has been saying that holding elections is the responsibility of the Election Commission of India, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah directly questioned the Election Commission of India (ECI). Earlier Omar would blame the BJP for delaying the polls.
“The Election Commission should respond to this question (about when the election will be held in J&K). We want to hear it from the Election Commission. The Chief Election Commissioner said there is a vaccum in J&K and that vaccum needs to be filled. If the CEC realizes that there is vaccum in Jammu and Kashmir due to the lack of elections, why is he not filling it,” Omar said. “What are the compulsions of the Election Commission that it is not holding elections? Let the ECI show courage and tell why they are not holding the polls,” he added.
Contrary to the claims of ending militancy in J&K, Omar suggested there is militancy now in those areas that were free of militancy during the elected government’s rule. “They are trying to cover up the situation through G-20. But people know everything here,” he added.
Jammu and Kashmir has been without an Assembly since November 2018 when the then Legislative Assembly was dissolved by then governor Satya Pal Malik after PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti staked claim to form the government. The Governor’s rule was imposed in J&K in June 2018 after the BJP pulled out of the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government.
On May 6 last year, Delimitation Commission finalized its two yearlong exercises recommending the creation of six additional assembly constituencies in the Jammu region and one more in the Kashmir valley. It was expected that the completion of the process of redrawing the electoral map of Jammu and Kashmir would pave the way for assembly elections in the Union Territory (UT).
But after the delimitation commission report, the ECI started work on the revised voter list and completed it in November last year. It included over seven lakh new voters taking the total number of electorates in the Union Territory (UT) to 83,59,771. Since then, the political parties have been pushing for elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
On March 6, this year, Dr Farooq Abdullah led a delegation of all political parties to the Election Commission of India asserting that the ECI is under a constitutional obligation to hold assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The delegation in its memorandum presented to the ECI in New Delhi said that the delay and denial of assembly elections in J&K would amount to a denial of the fundamental and democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The delegation said the assembly election would be the first and most important step towards the restoration of all the constitutional rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India and the fulfilment of the political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
BJP secretary Arun Chugh said regional political parties are creating confusion about the polls. He pointed out that Panchayat Polls and District Development Council polls were held in J&K.