ECI sets process for Assembly elections in J&K in motion, draft rolls by Aug 31

Final call to be taken after assessment of situation
*Pre-revision activities due to redrawn segments

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, June 15: The Election Commission of India (ECI) today virtually set the process for conduct of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in motion by initiating exercise for revision of Electoral Rolls and publication of draft rolls by August 31.
This follows a meeting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner (EC) Anup Chandra had in New Delhi after which they directed Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Jammu and Kashmir Hirdesh Kumar to map the redrawn Assembly constituencies.
Jammu and Kashmir has been allotted 90-seat Legislative Assembly including 47 constituencies in Kashmir and 43 in Jammu while there is provision for nomination of two Women. The Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai which submitted its findings to the Union Law Ministry in May has recommended nomination of two Kashmiri Pandit migrants (including one woman) and Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) refugees to the Assembly.
“In what could be a major step for conduct of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the Election Commission has directed that the draft rolls will be prepared by August 31,” official sources told the Excelsior and said if the Election Commission thinks that situation is fit for electoral exercise in Jammu and Kashmir it can conduct Assembly polls in the UT anytime between October-December.
However, holding the Assembly elections will depend on security situation prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir then. Though the Election Commission is sole authority for conduct of polls, it has to take reports of the Union Home Ministry and Jammu and Kashmir Government into consideration before taking a call on the polls. It can also send independent observers to assess the situation.
The electoral roll revision needs to be carried out before the first Assembly election is conducted in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir is without Assembly since 2018.
The BJP had withdrawn support to Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP Government on June 19, 2018 after which Mufti resigned as the Chief Minister. Then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Satyapal Malik had dissolved the Legislative Assembly on November 22, 2018.
Sources said that intensive and time-bound pre-revision activities are required due to the redrawing of electoral constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. While Jammu got six additional seats, Kashmir was given one.
Directions have also been given for the appointment of officials for the work on updating voter list.
Re-serialisation, mapping and renaming of Polling Stations post the delimitation will be done by June 30, in addition to the identification of polling stations for those villages where new booths need to be created.
After the delimitation, some of the earlier Polling Stations may come under more than one new constituency or may be completely shifted to another constituency.
The Polling Stations will be mapped accordingly.
The appointment of booth level officers and their proper training will be done by July 5.
Verification and rationalisation of polling booths will be done by July 25.
Finally, the draft rolls need to be prepared by August 31, sources said.
During the revision exercise, citizens would be given opportunities to enrol, delete and change their particulars in the electoral rolls.
Last month, the Central Government had issued a notification saying that the orders of the Delimitation Commission which redrew electoral constituencies would come into effect from May 20.
According to the orders of the Delimitation Commission, set up under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the Union Territory will have 90 assembly constituencies — 43 in Jammu Division and 47 in Kashmir — with nine of them being reserved for the Scheduled Tribes and seven for Scheduled Castes.
The erstwhile Legislative Assembly had 87 seats — 46 in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu and four in Ladakh. In the reorganisation of the erstwhile State, Ladakh was declared as a separate Union Territory without a Legislature.
The three-member Delimitation Panel was headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, a retired judge of the Supreme Court. Then Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra (now retired) and Jammu and Kashmir Election Commissioner K K Sharma were its two ex-officio members.
Five Jammu and Kashmir Lok Sabha members — three from the National Conference and two from the BJP — were Associate Members of the Commission.
The Panel submitted its final report on May 5, just a day before its two-year tenure was to end.