Srinagar: National Conference (NC) leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday said that situation for conducting the parliamentary polls was not as conducive as it was during 2014 assembly polls.
“The government has to create conducive environment to conduct the by-polls in the two constituencies (Srinagar and Anantnag),” Omar said during a press conference at Srinagar Hotel.
“The situation is not as bad as in the 90s but compared to my government in 2014, it is much worse today. Much worse than what it was when I handed over to Mehbooba Mufti. The fact that political activity in south Kashmir faces more challenges is a reality,” he said.
In the past few months, gunfights between militants and government forces have become a routine in Kashmir, with people often breaking into cordons to help militants escape.
“The challenge in front of the Election Commission today is to give us an environment that is suitable for electioneering, and to give the voters an environment that is suitable for them to come out and vote. I would like to see an environment similar to what my government had been able to create in 2014, both for the Parliament elections and the Assembly elections, when it was almost free for the people to choose if they wanted to vote or not,” Omar said.
At the same time, Omar claimed that there was a concern for both the Congress and the NC that a concerted effort is being made on part of the government to discourage the opposition from being able to move out and campaign.
“Our security is being downgraded. Bulletproof vehicles of party functionaries are being withdrawn. Escort vehicles are being taken away. Former candidates, who contested elections only as recently as 2014, are now being told to manage without a PSO (personal security officer), and I am talking about highly-threatened areas in districts of Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian,” he said.
He appealed to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to provide necessary security to the functionaries of the two parties so that they can run the poll campaign.
Poll campaign ‘has started’
Omar said the NC and Congress will start their poll campaign with immediate effect. “The campaign for us starts today. I will assume the campaign for PDP started yesterday,” Omar said. “But to suggest that no political activity has taken place at all would be incorrect. Both political parties, NC and Congress, have for the past few months been carrying out political meetings and activities across the state,” he added.
“The issues for the upcoming polls will remain the same that we have been raising for the past few months, particularly in the past year, in the House and outside,” Omar said.
“We will talk about restarting political dialogue, creating peace and security, restarting development which has come to a halt, stopping excesses of forces, which they committed sometimes, and for taking steps for ensuring the bright future of our youth,” he added.
Voting for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat is scheduled on April 9 and for Anantnag seat on April 12. About 27 lakh people, including 75,000 migrant voters, can exercise their franchise in the by-elections. The last dates for filing nomination papers for Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies are March 21 and 24, respectively.