Final decision on concurrent Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in J&K to be made after security review and feedback from political parties: ECI

Date:

UT to Have All-Women Polling Booths

Senior Citizens Granted Home Voting Option with Video Monitoring

Suhail Khan

JAMMU, Mar 13: The Chief Election Commissioner of India, Rajiv Kumar, announced on Wednesday that the Election Commission will make a final decision on holding joint Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in J&K after comprehensive consultations with security agencies and political parties.

“We are equally concerned about the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in J&K,” said Rajiv Kumar, the Chief Election Commissioner of India, during a press conference at Jammu.

He emphasized that the Commission wants to hold both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls as soon as possible. When asked if the polls will be held simultaneously, he stated, “We will have thorough consultations with the security agencies and also seek feedback from the political parties.”

Addressing the issue of security requirements, Rajiv Kumar stated that a plan will be formulated to assess the security needs for both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. “We will also evaluate the security requirement if both elections are held concurrently,” he added.

The number of voters in J&K stands at 86.9 lakh, including first-time voters and those above 100 years of age. Mr. Kumar assured that free and fair polls will be ensured. He urged citizens to report any mischief, violence, or fake news on the cvigil portal, promising action within 100 minutes of the complaint being uploaded.

Regarding the ECI team’s visit to Kashmir and Jammu, Mr. Kumar stated that they met with various political parties in Srinagar, and the majority of them expressed support for concurrent Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. “Some parties complained about the unnecessary reduction of security cover for their candidates and restrictions in carrying out political activities,” he added.

The CEC of India also highlighted the issue of low participation of migrant voters in the election process. “Official teams will visit migrant voters in Jammu and urge them to participate in the polls,” he said.

He further shared that out of the total voters, 44 lakh are male and 42 lakh are female. “The ratio is almost equal,” he noted. “There are 67,000 voters with disabilities, 77,290 voters over the age of 85, and 2,886 centenarians. Notably, over 3.4 lakh individuals are first-time voters, reflecting a vibrant and dynamic electoral landscape,” Mr. Kumar stated.

During the press conference, he announced that special booths exclusively staffed by women will be implemented in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. These unique booths will have positions such as presiding officers, polling officers, micro observers, and security personnel occupied by women.

He also rejected criticism about the “delay” in holding assembly elections in the Union Territory, saying delimitation and necessary legislative processes were completed by December 2023 only.

“The changes happened in December 2023 and we are in March… We know our responsibilities and we are also aware that there should be no political vacuum and the elections should be held sooner,” he told reporters before wrapping up his three-day tour of Jammu and Kashmir to assess the preparedness for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

He said the Commission had taken feedback from stakeholders including political parties, security agencies and administration on holding assembly elections with the upcoming general elections.

“We reviewed whether the two elections will be held together or one after another. We will decide after reviewing the security situation and taking the feedback.

“We have taken feedback from everybody about how much security is required. Each candidate needs security cover (in J-K) so it (holding elections together) will have security implications,” the CEC said.

Approximately 80 booths will be operated solely by female staff members. The ECI also highlighted that special provisions will be made to accommodate differently-abled individuals.

“Now we have 90 assembly seats including nine seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes. There was no chance of holding elections as there was a dissonance between the J-K reorganisation act and the delimitation.

“We have to bring them together and that happened in December 2023 in the form of the J-K Reorganization (Amendment) Act,” he said.

Kumar said the amended act also included the recommendation of the delimitation commission to reserve two seats for migrants including a woman and another provision of one nomination for displaced persons from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Mr. Kumar assured that all polling stations will provide comprehensive facilities and will be decorated festively to encourage maximum voter turnout. In addition, senior citizens who are unable to visit polling stations will be given the opportunity to vote from home, with proper videography measures in place.

Suhail Khan
Suhail Khanhttps://www.kashmirdespatch.com

Suhail Khan is a filmmaker, content writer, and freelance journalist.

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