HomeBusinessLok Sabha election date changed, National Conference and PDP called 'conspiracy'

Lok Sabha election date changed, National Conference and PDP called ‘conspiracy’

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This decision by the Election Commission has come at a time when the main voters of this constituency, the tribal Gujjar and Bakarwal communities are ready to leave for their annual migration to the Pir Panjal hills. Referring to the commission’s decision as ‘unfortunate’, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah alleged that it was a “conspiracy to deprive the nomadic Gujjar-Bakrwal population of their right to vote”. There, Mehbooba Mufti warned that any attempt to delay the voting would ‘damage the credibility of the election.’

National Conference Rally in Anantnag Constituency. Photo courtesy: X/@JKNC_

Srinagar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has changed the polling date for the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat in Centre-administered Jammu and Kashmir despite strong opposition from some political parties. Elections in this constituency were supposed to be held earlier on May 7 under the third phase, which has now been postponed to the sixth phase (May 25).

The Election Commission’s decision has come at a time when the constituency’s main voters – the Gujjar and Bakarwal tribal communities – are ready to head to the Pir Panjal hills for their annual migration. This community has a good population here, which is very important when it comes to voting. Now, due to the postponement of the election date, there are question marks on their voting position.

Describing the Election Commission’s decision as ‘unfortunate’, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) Vice President Omar Abdullah alleged that it ‘deprives the nomadic Gujjar-Bakrwal population of their right to vote’ , banked a key vote for his party’s candidate, senior tribal leader Mian Altaf Larvi.

“The Bharatiya Janata Party knows very well that these tribal people will move to higher pastures (by May 25) with their cattle,” Abdullah told The Wire. They also know who these tribes are voting for. The Electoral Commission should not have allowed this to happen.

It is known that according to a 2014 report by the International Institute for Research in Humanities and Social Sciences Journal, the Gujjar and Bakarwal groups are the third largest community in Jammu and Kashmir, accounting for 8.1 percent of the total population.

The two tribal groups are mainly concentrated in the Jammu districts of Poonch (40.12 per cent) and Rajouri (33.19 per cent), Kashmir Valley districts and Anantnag and Kulgam districts (8.3 per cent), which with’ together forming the newly formed Anantnag-Rajuri Lok Sabha part of the constituency.

The Election Commission said in a special gazette notice on Tuesday (April 30) that voting in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency will now be held on May 25 in the sixth phase instead of May 7 in the third phase. This seat came into existence after the demarcation of Jammu and Kashmir in 2022.

The commission’s notice came after representation by the ruling BJP and four other political parties, widely seen as allies of the BJP, among the petitioners, including two independent candidates, who for other reasons Apart from this, asked for the commission to postpone the election. , stating that the candidates could not reach the voters due to bad weather.

On the appeal of the BJP and other parties, the commission last week asked Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) PK Pole and Chief Secretary Atal Dolo to report on the ‘condition of roads, weather and accessibility’ in the constituency.

Now the Electoral Commission has made a basis for this report when announcing the change in the voting date.

The commission said that some political parties requested to change the polling date due to the challenges faced in campaigning considering the natural barriers of communication and communication, after which the commission made the decision, as these barriers hinder the equivalent candidates with a lack of suitable opportunities.

In its new notification, the commission said the date of the election has been revised under Section 56 of the Representation of the People Act 1951, after “analyzing the situation on the ground” and reading the report of the Jammu and Kashmir administration.

On the other hand, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have rejected the ‘connectivity’ argument for postponing the elections, pointing to an alternative route from the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. This road connects two different areas of Anantnag-Rajouri.

According to political observers, the BJP is of the opinion that the decline in the number of Gujjar and Bakarwal votes could be shared between the National Conference and the PDP. The main reason behind this is that they have recently been granted tribal status here for the development of mountain speakers, who account for more than 56% of the population. Perhaps the activation of these people in Poonch and Rajouri districts is in favor of Zafar Iqbal Minhas, an ally of the BJP and the candidate of ‘Plaid Apni’.

It is worth noting that his party and the Sajjad Lone People’s Conference (PC) were among the five political parties that approached the Electoral Commission to postpone the polling date. However, neither BJP nor PC have fielded any candidates from this constituency.

There were earlier reports that if the Election Commission postpones the elections and announces a new schedule for this constituency, the BJP may also field its candidate from this constituency, but the new notification has dismissed this possibility.

This notification states that the remainder of the earlier Notification No. 464/EPS/2024 (3), dated April 12, 2024, where to file nomination papers for the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha Constituency on April 19. The closing date was, will that there is no change.

Earlier in its notification, the commission said the region has been reconstituted by merging parts of the Jammu division with the Kashmir Valley and the constituency will vote on May 7 in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

In the election, a three-way contest is expected between Altaf, a five-time MLA of the National Conference from the Kangan assembly constituency, Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and president of the People’s Democratic Party, and Minhas, a hill politician.

Ghulam Nabi Azad’s new party, the Democratic Progressive Azad Party, had announced that the former Congress leader would contest the election from this constituency. But later in a shock move, he announced not to contest the elections, citing his promises to form a new party. After that, Salim Pare’s lawyer was disqualified from this seat.

The main competitor in this contest, the National Conference, believes that changing the date of the election could affect Altaf’s chances of victory. Mehbooba also opposed it, comparing such a move to the rigging of 1987, warning that any attempt to delay voting would ‘damage the credibility of the election.’

Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are believed to have sparked armed insurgency in the early 1990s.

(Click here to read in English.)

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