The decision of Election Commission of India (ECI) to defer the Anantnag parliamentary by-polls to May 25, which were scheduled to be held on April 12, has drawn the ire of the Opposition NC and Congress which have sought that the Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, should step down.
The decision of the ECI to defer the elections has come for the first time in the electoral history of the state. Parliament elections couldn’t be held in 1991 after militancy erupted here but polls were held in 1996 after the gap of seven years when elections were held earlier in 1989. In the 1989 elections the polling percentage had remained very thin while as there were charges of “excesses’’ being committed by government forces to force the people to vote in 1996 elections.
A day after former CM and NC working president, Omar Abdullah, tweeted that Mehbooba should step down Congress on Tuesday build up pressure seeking that Mehbooba should resign from office. On Monday, while reacting to the demand of PDP that polls should be deferred, Omar said that “if polls are postponed Mehbooba must resign as Chief Minister and hand over charge to Governor N N Vohra.” “Tassaduq’s statement is an indictment of his sister Mehbooba’s government and its abject failure. How can the BJP not see this,” Omar tweeted.
ECI has decided to defer the polls, but the elections will be held on 38 polling stations on Srinagar parliamentary seat, where the elections were disrupted by the protesting youth, on April 13. The decision to postpone polls came after the violence during the elections on Sunday in which at least eight people were killed in an alleged action by the government forces. PDP had sought that elections should be deferred as Tasaduq Mufti, party candidate and brother of Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, asked the ECI to postpone the polls following the killings. However, Congress issued a sharp reaction over the decision today and sought that Mehbooba should step down.
“The decision has discredited even the ECI,” said Congress Vice President, G N Monga. The action by government forces leading to death of eight civilians on the polling day on Srinagar seat that also left 17 youth injured has drawn a widespread resentment from both the mainstream and separatist politicians here. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti herself expressed the anguish over the deaths. Both the PDP and Congress withdrew from the campaign on Monday in protest to the killings. However the Congress party had demanded that the elections should be held in time. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shant Manu, said that the elections were deferred due to the precarious security scenario. “We had received the report from the state government that the conditions are not feasible for holding the elections. However we have decided to hold elections on 38 polling stations on April 13 and the counting will be done as per schedule on April 15,” he said.
On Monday, Congress and NC had sought that the elections should be held in time, in the meeting with the CEO, but PDP demanded that the elections should be deferred. Monga said that the questions have been raised over the conduct of the ECI as it went by the word of the ruling PDP-BJP dispensation.