Jammu (Kashmir - J&K), March 10: The Election Commission of India (ECI) today announced two-phase polling in Srinagar and Anantnag Lok Sabha seat by-elections on April 9 and 12 respectively and counting on April 15. It ordered imposition of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in seven districts of the Kashmir valley, which would go to vote. Entire election process for the two seats will be completed before April 16 i.e. a day ahead of April 17 deadline for election of two MPs, who will have only two years term as Lok Sabha members.
A notification for by-poll to two Lok Sabha seats, which had been vacated last year by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (Anantnag) and Tariq Hamid Karra (Srinagar), both PDP members, was issued today by the ECI in New Delhi. The two-phase polling on two Parliamentary seats of Kashmir was necessitated in view of militancy related situation and law and order problem, which would require massive deployment of para-military forces, Armed Police, JKP and other available security personnel for peaceful conduct of the polls.
The ECI order said the nominations for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat will open on March 14 and for Anantnag constituency on March 17. The candidates can file nomination papers for Srinagar till March 21 and for Anantnag till March 24. Scrutiny of nominations will take place for Srinagar seat on March 22 and Anantnag on March 27 while candidates can withdraw their nomination papers till March 24 for Srinagar seat and March 29 for Anantnag.
Polling will be held for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat on April 9 and Anantnag on April 12. Counting for both the seats will be held on April 15 and entire process of the elections will be over on April 16. Excelsior had today exclusively reported that polling for two Lok Sabha seats would be conducted in two-phases.
While Srinagar Lok Sabha by-poll has to be conducted before April 17, the deadline for Anantnag by-polls, which had once already been deferred, was July 4. As the State Government wanted both elections to be clubbed with gap of three-four days, the ECI had fixed April 17 deadline for both the polls.
Anantnag Parliamentary seat had fallen vacant in June, 2016 after Lok Sabha member from this seat, Mehbooba Mufti (now the Chief Minister) was elected to the Legislative Assembly from Anantnag Assembly seat. Srinagar Lok Sabha seat had fallen vacant after former PDP leader Tariq Hamid Karra had resigned from the PDP as well as Lok Sabha in protest against what he called ‘brutalities’ on Kashmir unrest protesters.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shantmanu today reviewed preparedness for the by-poll to both Lok Sabha seats with Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Khan and all seven Deputy Commissioners of seven districts, which formed parts of Srinagar and Anantnag Lok Sabha constituencies.
Srinagar Lok Sabha seat comprised three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal while Anantnag constituency has four districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian. During review for preparedness of the elections, the CEO called for strict implementation of Model Code of Conduct in all seven districts of two Lok Sabha seats, which has come into force after announcement of elections by the ECI.
“There should be no violation of the Model Code of Conduct,” he directed. Shantmanu said the electoral rolls, which were revised during summary revision carried out in entire State and published on January 16, will be used for conduct of by-polls to Srinagar and Anantnag Lok Sabha constituencies. He added that a total of 31 Assistant Returning Officers (AROs) will be posted for the elections. The CEO would finalize all 31 AROs by March 13. As per the Model Code of Conduct, all local officers posted in their home towns and the officers staying on one particular post for three years have to be moved out from the poll bound constituencies.
Meanwhile, Shantmanu this evening met the full Election Commission including Chief Election Commissioner, Dr Naseem Zaidi and Election Commissioners AK Jyoti and Om Prakash Rawat and briefed them on the preparations for the by-election to two Lok Sabha seats and steps required for holding free and fair elections in militancy-infested Kashmir valley.
The full Election Commission called for taking all steps to ensure massive turnout on both the Lok Sabha seats of the Kashmir valley as some of the separatists have already given a call for poll boycott while others could follow. “The good turnout has always been a challenge for the Election Commission in the Kashmir valley. However, with last summer’s unrest still fresh, the Commission wants to mobilize all sources at its command for impressive turnout on both the constituencies,” sources said.
In 2014 April-May Lok Sabha elections, PDP had won all three Lok Sabha seats of the Kashmir valley including Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag. While Mehbooba had to quit the seat in June 2016 after she became the Chief Minister on April 4, 2016 following sudden demise of her father and then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Tariq Hamid Karra, PDP MP from Srinagar later quit the party as well as Lok Sabha membership in protest against alleged “brutalities” on summer unrest protesters. PDP has now lone Lok Sabha member from Baramulla-Muzaffar Ahmad Baig apart from two Rajya Sabha members.