‘Nothing to add’; NC refuses to meet ECI observers

National Conference and a few smaller mainstream political parties Thursday stayed away from meeting three “special observers” appointed by the election commission of India (ECI) to “assess the ground situation” in Jammu and Kashmir for the state assembly elections, even as the PDP, Congress and Peoples Conference demanded holding of the electoral exercise “without any delay”.

The three special observers, who began their two-day visit to the state, include former IAS officers Vinod Zutshi and Noor Muhammad, and former IPS officer, A S Gill.

The team arrived in Srinagar this morning to meet political parties and officials from the civil and police administrations, days after the ECI said it won’t hold the assembly polls in the state alongside the general elections “due to security concerns”.

In an unexpected move, the National Conference decided against meeting the observers, saying the party has “nothing more to add” to its demand of having the simultaneous elections in the state.

“Our demand of having the simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir in our earlier meetings with the EC team remains as it is. We have, therefore, nothing more to add,” a National Conference spokesman said.

The party’s general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar, who had met the election commission of India (ECI) team last week said that the postponement of assembly polls can have “serious ramifications” across the state.

“Those who took this incoherent decision must be up to some mischief, otherwise there is no sound reason for not conducting the simultaneous elections. If the situation is conducive for the parliament elections, what stops them from conducting the assembly elections at the same time?” he asked.

The CPI (M), which was invited to meet the observers, decided against meeting them in protest against delay in holding the assembly polls in the state.

Interestingly, PDF chairman Hakeem Muhammad Yasin and Democratic Party Nationalist chairman Ghulam Hassan Mir also did not meet the observers. The duo had met the ECI delegation on March 4.

In a joint statement, Hakim, Tarigami and Yasin said they didn’t meet the “special observers” because “we have already put forth our position about holding the assembly polls in the state before the full election commission last week. There is nothing new to say about the issue.”

They said the uncertainty in the state is “deepening day-by-day and dissatisfaction is increasing in absence of an elected government in the state”.

“We reiterate our consistent demand that the only effective response to this situation would have been to hold the elections to the assembly and Lok Sabha simultaneously,” they said.

On the other hand, the Congress and Peoples Democratic Party demanded that the state polls be held immediately.

“We requested the observers that the polls should be announced immediately,” senior Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin told Greater Kashmir.

“We also suggested to the committee that they should look into feasibility of holding the assembly polls concurrently with the last phases of parliamentary polls.”

Taj said there is no justification for delaying the assembly polls when the parliamentary polls have been announced.

PDP leader Muhammad Ashraf Mir said they urged the observers that the state elections should be held as soon as possible.

“We told the committee that people of Jammu and Kashmir are disappointed over non-holding of the assembly polls,” he said, adding that delaying the polls is “murder and subversion of democracy”.

Peoples Conference vice-president Abdul Gani Vakil said the polls should be announced to “remove ambiguity”.

“We stressed upon them to restore the legitimacy of the assembly, which solely lies in higher participation (of people),” he said.

He said the “era of beneficiaries of boycott should be brought to an end. The assembly cannot be made a selected institution for a selected few”.

Vakil said the party demanded “equal security” to all the contesting candidates.

The J&K BJP also pitched for early assembly polls during their meeting with the observers.

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