Politcal parties differ over Kashmir poll timing

September 8th, 2008 - 11:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) The Election Commission of India Monday convened an all-party meeting on the upcoming assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir, as political outfits appeared divided over the timing of the voting in the troubled state.The meeting was attended by seven national parties and three regional parties to give their views to the Election Commission, an official release said.

The Election Commission will meet the union home secretary to take the government’s view on the elections in the state, which remains embroiled in an unending unrest over the controversial Amarnath land order.

Elections are due in November in the state currently under six-month governor’s rule since July 11 when the previous Congress-led coalition government was toppled and the state assembly dissolved after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) pulled out of the alliance following differences over the land row.

The issue has had the state on the boil amid conflicting claims from Muslims in the valley and Hindu groups in Jammu region over a piece of forest land allotted to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board that manages annual pilgrimage to a cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas.

Nearly 50 people have died, mostly in police and paramilitary firing, during the last two months of protests over the land row and subsequent disruption of supply of essential commodities due to protests in Jammu. The issue reinforced separatist sentiment among valley Muslims, who have been rallying for freedom since last month. A nine-day long curfew was imposed Aug 24 across the valley to foil separatists’ rallies.

A poll panel team is likely to visit the state to take stock of the ground situation, as political parties have given varied views on when to hold the elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties demanded that elections be held on time, while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Panthers Party wanted delimitation to be done first before finalising the poll dates. The Congress left the timing to be decided by the commission.

“If the Election Commission feels that situation is conducive for conducting elections in state, we are ready for it,” Congress spokesperson M. Veerappa Moily told reporters.

The three-member Congress delegation included Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan, state Congress chief Saifuddin Soz and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the party favoured elections to be held by November end, while pointing out, “even in 2002 the situation was very bad, but still the elections were held”.

Expressing similar views that elections should be held on time, the Communist Party of India (CPI) national secretary D. Raja said the Election Commission should ensure free and fair polls.

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