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Jammu & Kashmir

J&K local body polls deferred

February 19, 2020 06:48 AM

J&K local body polls deferred
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Jammu : Bypolls to over 12,500 panchayat seats in Jammu & Kashmir that were scheduled to be held in eight phases from March 5 have been postponed for three weeks due to security concerns, chief electoral officer Shailendra Kumar said on Tuesday, almost a week after he announced the schedule for the elections.

In a notification issued on Tuesday evening, Kumar said Jammu & Kashmir’s home department advised electoral officials to consider deferring the polls based on “credible inputs from the law enforcement agencies”. It did not elaborate on the nature of the inputs.

“After addressing all the concerns suitably at the earliest, possibly in two to three weeks, a fresh schedule shall be notified,” the notification said.

The announcement came hours after former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday said it walked out of an all-party meeting called for the polls after Kumar expressed his helplessness in addressing the issues it had raised.

The bypolls would have been the second such electoral exercise since Jammu & Kashmir was on August 5, 2019, stripped of its special status with the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370. The change in the region’s constitutional status followed incarceration of hundreds of politicians and activists in August.

“With our leadership under detention, we are not in a position to decide on this issue [of participating in the polls]. The CEO told us that he is helpless and he cannot do anything in this matter. Eventually, we staged a walkout,’’ said PDP general secretary Ved Mahajan. “We are not allowed to meet her [Mufti].”

He added that they told Kumar, who chaired the meeting, that they were not even allowed to observe PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death anniversary last month.

Mahajan questioned how the polls could be held on party lines when they are not allowed to hold public meetings.

“In the given circumstance when we are not allowed to meet our president, then how we can decide on the ensuing polls. The mandate has to be given by the president. Therefore, we requested her release.

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