PDP-BJP coalition plays ostrich on ‘bad’ situation in South Kashmir
ECI rescinds Anantnag poll announcement on J&K Govt’s request within 48 hours
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, April 21: In its first official admission of the situation turning worse in the ruling PDP’s bastion of South Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition in Jammu and Kashmir has forced the Election Commission of India to cancel the announcement of holding the by-election in the vacant Anantnag Assembly segment on May 16. On Tuesday, ECI had announced to conduct the by-election next month as the seat in Anantnag has been lying vacant since the death of the former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7.
ECI Secretary Sumit Mukherjee disclosed in an official release on Thursday that the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary the law and order situation was not conducive at the moment for holding the by-election “due to certain recent incidents”. “He has, therefore, requested the Commission to postpone the bye-election from 40-Anantnag Assembly constituency for the present”. Accordingly, the ECI decided to postpone the by-election and rescinded the April 19th announcement.
Announcement for the by-election would be made subsequently, Mr Mukherjee said.
Withdrawal of the election announcement within two days evoked sharp reactions from the principal opposition parties, National Conference and Congress, which termed it as the Mehbooba government’s “admission of defeat” and pointed out that the situation, if really bad, had turned so during the PDP-BJP regime.
While returning to New Delhi, after a weeklong stay with his mother in London, NC’s acting President and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was scared of facing the people.
“In an admission of how bad the situation is under @mehbooba_mufti the Election commission has been forced to postpone Anantnag by-election”, Omar wrote on Twitter.”The election was scheduled for 16th May but state govt had written to EC that the situation "isn't conducive" & it's been postponed”. He repeated: “It's an admission both of how bad things have become under @mehbooba_mufti & how petrified she is of facing the people in the by-election”.
Subsequently, in a detailed statement issued from the NC headquarters, Omar said: “In seeking the postponement of the election for the Anantnag Assembly Constituency, Mehbooba Mufti has shown that she has panicked and is hiding behind the Election Commission. This desperate and evasive move shows how badly the Chief Minister is governing the State and is a formal admission of defeat by the PDP-BJP alliance. Fearing rejection by the people, the Chief Minister has evaded the very first formal referendum on the PDP-BJP Alliance and that’s a very significant development”.
Omar said that Mehbooba was trying to escape “the consequences of PDP’s sell-outs and political surrenders” under the fig-leaf of an allegedly ‘non-conducive’ situation. “When the Chief Minister of a State is petrified of failing to seek an electoral validation to continue in her chair, the very credibility, mandate and writ of the Government become questionable. Knowing well that her party is facing a complete rout at the grassroots level, Mehbooba Mufti has chosen to run away from her very first test and that’s tragic”.
Omar added: “The people of J&K have rejected this alliance of convenience and have also seen how much of a failure it amounted to in its previous year in power. Mehbooba Mufti’s spectacular U-turn on seeking Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) from the Government of India has catalyzed PDP’s political obliteration. If she is so scared of facing the people, with what credibility and confidence will she rule the State?”
In its immediate reaction, Congress urged ECI to review its decision of the deferment of the polling and demanded that the same be held as per the schedule announced on April 19th. A statement issued by the Congress spokesman Ravinder Raina called the postponement as “acceptance of first defeat by the State Coalition especially the PDP”
“Congress has said since the PDP is aware of the ground political situation and they see their defeat as a writing on the wall, as such (they have) cited the reason of law and order situation to seek the deferment of the polls”.
Neither the two ruling parties--- PDP and BJP--- nor the State Government did issue any reaction to the postponement of the by-election within two days of the announcement by ECI.
However a senior bureaucrat told STATE TIMES that the election had been deferred “only to ensure that the tourist season is not disturbed”. He said that the State government would like the by-election in Anantnag to be held any time after the conclusion of Shri Amarnath Yatra after August 15th. He pointed that there was no legal or constitutional binding on the government or ECI to hold the by-election on the vacant seat in a particular time frame.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is currently retaining his position as Lok Sabha member from South Kashmir, is however bound by Constitution to become a member of either House of the State Legislature within 6 months of her taking oath as Head of the Government i.e. till October 3 this year.