New Delhi: Veteran politician from Jammu and Kashmir and Lok Sabha member Farooq Abdullah led a delegation of leaders from Opposition parties to meet the Election Commission (EC) to press for early assembly polls in the Union Territory.
Jammu and Kashmir is without a legislative assembly and an elected government for the last five years, the National Conference (NC) leader said after a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar here.
“The CEC heard us and has assured that the commission would soon hold a meeting to discuss the issue,” Abdullah said.
The delegation informed the CEC and other members of the commission that the government has been claiming of restoring normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and that now the onus is on the EC (to hold assembly elections), he said.
“So, we asked why was the commission not taking note of the plight of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Abdullah, a three-time chief minister of the erstwhile state, said.
In 2019, the Centre abrogated Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated the state into Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
In a memorandum submitted to the poll panel, the leaders said “in disregard to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, an unrepresentative and unaccountable bureaucracy is allowed to run the government to the discomfort and inconvenience of the general public”.
The memorandum signed by NCP leader Sharad Pawar, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, AAP leader Sanjay Singh and others, said the EC is under the Constitutional obligation to hold assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
The delegation said any further “delay in and denial of assembly elections would amount to denial of fundamental and democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and a breach of Constitutional obligations”.
The panchayat elections and elections to other public representative institutions cannot be a substitute to legislative assembly elections and the government and for that matter, the EC cannot avoid and delay assembly elections on that ground, the delegation said in the memorandum.
“Had it been so, there would be no need to conduct assembly elections in states, as the EC is with due dispatch and punctuality, as is evident from recently held assembly elections in Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland and the elections scheduled to be held in Karnataka,” it said.
The opposition leaders said in each case, the argument though, inherently specious, could have been that as panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) were in place there was no need to hold assembly elections.
The Union home minister and other functionaries of the government of India have more than once stated that the government is ready to facilitate conduct of assembly elections and the final call is to be taken by the EC, the leaders claimed.
They said the assembly elections would be the first and important step towards restoration of all the Constitutional rights guaranteed in the Constitution and fulfilment of political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The leaders urged the CEC to announce assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir without any further delay and notify the election schedule so that the democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and access to democratic institutions is restored.