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Ready for J&K Elections, Onus on Election Commission to Announce Schedule: Centre

Since the dissolution of the erstwhile state legislature in 2018, J&K has been under President's Rule. Contrary to the official statements, there are allegations that the BJP unit in the Union territory is not ready to face polls anytime soon.
Representative image. Photo: Flickr/Al Jazeera English/Nilanjan Chowdhury (CC BY-SA 2.0)

New Delhi: The Union government told the parliament on Tuesday, December 5, that it is ready to hold elections in Jammu and Kashmir and it is for the Election Commission to announce the schedule whenever it feels appropriate.

“We are ready for elections, but you have to ask the EC for it as it is an independent constitutional body and only it can decide when to hold polls,” said Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), according to the Times of India.

Meanwhile, Union home minister Amit Shah told the parliament that the Modi government has ensured that the country has just one flag and one constitution as opposition members clashed with treasury benches over the reading down of Article 370.

Shah’s remark was during the debate on the J&K Reservation (Amendment) Bill and the J&K Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill. He countered Trinamool Congress’s (TMC) Saugata Roy who had said “one flag, one prime minister, one constitution” is the political slogan of the BJP. Shah wondered how a country could have two prime ministers, two constitutions, and two flags. He added that it is not merely a political slogan of the BJP, but his party firmly believes in the idea.

“Whosoever did it was wrong. Narendra Modi has corrected it. Your approval or disagreement does not matter. The entire country wanted it,” he countered Roy.

Members of the Congress party questioned the government over introducing amendments to the Bill at a time when the Supreme Court is yet to deliver its verdict on the Article 370 case. The apex court concluded 16 days of hearings in the case in September. The court is expected to pronounce its verdict sometime this month. Article 370 gave Jammu and Kashmir the power to have a separate constitution, a state flag, and autonomy of internal administration.

Meanwhile, National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi sought to know from the government why did it not conduct elections if felt the situation was peaceful in J&K. He alleged that no attempt was made by the Union government to restore statehood as promised.

Since the dissolution of the erstwhile state legislature in 2018, J&K has been under the President’s Rule, prompting local political parties to demand the Union government to resume electoral activities in the Union territory. Contrary to the official statements, the delay is due to Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)’s local unit wanting to defer the exercise at least till the 2024 parliamentary polls, as it is not yet ready to face any polls even local body polls, according to The Wire‘s previous reports.

On November 14, J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha had said that even elections to the urban local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir will be delayed considerably. The tenure of Srinagar Municipal Corporation ended on November 5 while the Jammu civic body completed its five-year tenure on Tuesday, November 14. Other municipal bodies across the Union territory will finish their tenure by the end of this month. The last ULB and panchayat elections in the UT were held between October and December 2018 – which too were after a long delay.

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