Full ECI reviews situation with top MHA, J&K officials

Decision on simultaneous LS, Assembly polls
Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Feb 18: Full Election Commission of India (ECI) held high-level review of law and order situation and election preparedness in Jammu and Kashmir including possibility of holding Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously with top officials of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and J&K Government in New Delhi today.
Union Home Secretary, Rajiv Gauba led the MHA team at the meeting while Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam headed the J&K Government delegation, which comprised Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shailendra Kumar, Home Secretary, Shaleen Kabra and Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Law & Order, Muneer Khan.
Sources told the Excelsior that the full Election Commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora took the assessment of situation on law and order front and election preparedness in Jammu and Kashmir from the MHA as well as J&K Government officials.
The full Election Commission will now visit Jammu and Kashmir after improvement in the situation for on spot assessment before taking a decision on whether to hold Assembly elections in the State along with Lok Sabha polls or defer them in the wake of security situation.
As the State Assembly was dissolved on November 21, the Assembly elections have to be held before May 21. However, if the Election Commission decided to defer the Assembly polls, the Central Government can extend President’s rule in the State for another six months after June 20.
A high-level team of the Ministry of Home Affairs, led by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, today briefed the Election Commission about the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of Pulwama terror attack in which 44 CRPF jawans were martyred, officials said. The meeting was held to help the Election Commission (EC) in taking a decision on holding Lok Sabha elections as well as the Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir, sources said.
During the meeting, the MHA team apprised the EC about the ground realities in the State, strength of Central forces currently deployed and the additional forces which could be made available for election duties, sources said. The EC will have to take a decision on whether to hold Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir simultaneously or conduct the Assembly polls later in the year based on the assessment provided by the MHA and top officials of Jammu and Kashmir Government. The MHA team also apprised the EC about the internal security situation in the country and the Central forces it could make available for polling duties across the country.
The EC is expected to announce the schedule for Lok Sabha elections in the first fortnight of March. Assembly polls are expected to be held with Lok Sabha elections simultaneously in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The Governor’s rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir on June 19, 2018 after the State plunged into a political crisis when the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition Government was reduced to minority following withdrawal of support by the 25-member BJP in the State. The Assembly had been kept under the suspended animation then. However, Governor Satya Pal Malik had on November 21 dissolved the 87-member State Assembly after the PDP, supported by the Congress and arch rivals National Conference, tried to stake claim to form the Government.
He had cited “extensive horse-trading”, the “impossibility” of forming a stable Government by coming together of political parties with “opposing political ideologies” and “serious doubts about the longevity of any such arrangement where there are competing claims of majority” as the reasons behind the decision. When the Governor’s rule expired on December 19, 2018, President’s rule was imposed in the State as under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, there is no provision for extension of Governor’s rule.