Day after the State Administrative Council (SAC) asked the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) to start preparations for municipal polls, the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed the suggestion but National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress were on the same page stating that it would not be conducive to hold any polls in the State at the moment.
Joint Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Jammu Kashmir, Raman Kesar said they would need 75 days for preparing for the municipal polls from the date they are notified.
On the prevailing situation, he said the State government would itself decide and inform the Election Commission on the feasibility of conducting the municipal polls.
“It is their prerogative and we’ve to follow what they tell us,” Kesar said.
He said the number of new constituencies would be provided by the HUDD to the Election Commission after which the process would be started.
National Conference General Secretary, Ali Muhammad Sagar said the party had been saying that the situation was not conducive for any polls, particularly in the Valley.
He said just a day ago, a civilian had been killed in south Kashmir.
“From south to north, Kashmir valley is burning,” Sagar said.
The veteran NC leader said it was better for the situation to improve first and only then could an election be held.
NC’s rival PDP also expressed some thoughts on the development with PDP General Secretary Dilawar Mir saying the party believed that situation was not conducive for any elections.
He said the government under the Governor could conduct these elections only when the situation normalizes.
"We will put forth our stand when the Governor asks us to," Mir said.
The election to 81 municipal bodies (municipal corporations, municipal councils and municipal committees) were last held in 2005, the term of which ended in 2010.
The elections to municipal bodies have not been held for the past eight years.
State Congress President Ghulam Ahmad Mir also said the situation in the Valley was not conducive for conducting any polls.
“We have already informed the Governor that we are in no hurry for any elections,” he said.
Mir said the “unholy alliance” of PDP and BJP had ended because of the deteriorating situation in the Valley and that it had been less than two weeks since the Governor had taken over.
“The situation on the ground has not improved yet,” he said. “Any election can be held when people receive some respite.”
However, the State Congress chief said his party would support the democratic process if the Governor still goes ahead with polls.
“He should consult all the parties and then see how the situation is on the ground,” Mir said.
However, BJP State President Ravinder Raina said elections to local municipalities had been delayed for a long time, which in turn had led to the Government of India depriving the State of crucial funds.
He said the SAC decision was a positive development and municipal polls should be held at the earliest.
“We are ready for elections in the State,” Raina said.
He said people in the Valley were eager to participate as these polls were for solving local issues.
In February this year, PDP-BJP government had called a meeting of all political parties, following which it was conveyed to GoI that there could be serious law and order problems in the Valley, especially in south Kashmir, if any elections were held.
Financial Commissioner HUDD, K B Agarwal said the department had just received SAC directions and it would take them some days to start the process.
He said HUDD would discuss with the Chief Electoral Officer about the role to be played by their department.