Inadequate security personnel hinders J&K assembly polls

3NEW DELHI: The Election Commission’s decision not to announce the assembly elections in Jammu & Kashmir along with the Lok Sabha polls was based on the recent assessment submitted to it by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the state administration.

Top sources confirmed to ET that both the MHA and the J&K administration told the Commission that they cannot provide the high number of security personnel required for simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha polls in the state.

Accordingly, the EC decided to appoint three independent observers to assess the ground situation in the state and its readiness for assembly elections. Sources told ET that the Commission will take a final decision on holding polls early enough or to seek extension of President’s rule in the state, on the basis of the assessment of these observers.

The three independent observers to J&K are 1977 batch retired IAS officer Noor Mohammed, 1972 batch IPS officer and former DG CRPF AS Gill who also served as IG in the state earlier, and 1982 batch IAS officer Vinod Zutshi, who has served long in the EC. The EC is expected to hold a meeting with the three observers on March 12.

The Commission has also moved cautiously on the Lok Sabha polls in the state, spreading the polls in six constituencies across five phases.

The parliamentary constituency of Anantnag, seen as an extremist stronghold, will face polls in three phases.

Anantnag is the longest delayed bypoll in the country as it has been vacant since 2015 when PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti vacated the seat to head the PDP-BJP government.

About 800 companies of paramilitary forces would be required for conducting assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls in the state.

J&K currently has about 500 companies deployed.

This is already much heavier a deployment than during the 2014 assembly polls when a total of 400 companies were brought to the state to conduct elections in five phases. The 2009 polls had seen over 600 companies deployed when tension was higher in the state.