EC, House ministry at war of words over Kashmir bypolls

Election Commission

Women are found coming out from a polling station after casting their vote for Srinagar Parliamentary constituency of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday. The polling was marred by widespread violence and exceptionally low voter turnouts (PTI Photo)

    The Election Commission said that it has no duty to consult the Union home ministry reacting to an accusation of ignoring an information that April, to postpone bypolls.

    The war of words broke away following Sunday’s by-elections were engulfed by violence to the Srinagar parliamentary constituency.

    Srinagar listed 7.14% polling, the lowest in three decades, along with eight people were killed and dozens were wounded in clashes with security forces. Mobs threw rocks and petrol bombs as they tried to inflict a separatist phone to boycott the bypolls from the country, where the situation was volatile because last summer’s massive unrest.

    Home ministry sources said the poll panel ignored its advice where unemployment was slated for April 12, to postpone by-elections from Srinagar and Anantnag. The voting had been deferred following the violence in Srinagar to May 25.

    Election Commission (EC) officials were so quick to response, saying they were not bound to consult the home ministry to hold elections. The short of the ministry is restricted to providing forces, ” they said.

    “It was a constitutional obligation to hold the Srinagar by-poll, that had been due before April 16. The state government was consulted because it is in charge of law and order and security issues,” an EC origin said.

    “The state authorities said the preparation for free, fair and peaceful elections have been made along with a comprehensive installation plan was also worked out by Jammu and Kashmir authorities. They also updated the security of governmental leaders and leaders.”

    But home ministry officials believed that the atmosphere in the Valley was not conducive for bypolls.

    The ministry could have chosen the bypolls following the panchayat elections, that could have got the electoral process.

    After the EC announced the bypolls the ministry warned components may disrupt the process.

    The poll panel officials cautioned that the commission examines the position for elections.

    “From the assessment of the EC, if prevailing conditions were conducive for holding of panchayat elections by the state authorities, subsequently holding of parliamentary elections is also feasible,” among the officials said.

    However, the home ministry officials were not convinced with all the commission’s answer.

    They said the ministry has been asked to provide 300 businesses — around 3,000 personnel — of paramilitary forces for the bypolls, rather than their “10 to 12 firms” that is the norm.

    The poll panel confirmed the ministry’s worries of disruption during the bypolls by searching for a large number of security personnel, they argued.

    An former CEC advised HT finalising poll dates are a long-drawn process when asked if the poll panel had erred.

    “It’s an elaborate process … Situation on the floor has to be peaceful, there should not be a danger to candidates or to Republicans,” former chief election commissioner HS Brahma said.