Seven-phase J&K Polls From Nov 17 To Dec 24

19 October 2008
The Times of India


New Delhi: Setting aside its own differences and fear of low turnout, the Election Commission on Sunday announced seven-phase election for 87-seat Jammu & Kashmir assembly spread over more than a month.The first phase would begin on November 17, followed by polls on November 23, November 30, December 7, December 17 and December 24. Results would be announced on December 28. Model code of conduct comes into effect immediately. EC's decision to go ahead with election despite serious voices of dissent from the Valley and doubts about the poor turnout, a senior EC official said, shows boldness on part of the government. 'During our interaction with home ministry officials for security forces the constant refrain was that elections be held at all cost. Otherwise, separatist elements would have an upper hand,' he said. At one stage it looked that election in J&K would not be held within the current deadline of January 9, when the President rule ends. Within EC also there was a difference of opinion as CEC N Gopalaswamy wanted certain factors to be considered before taking the final call. However, the two ECs SY Qureishi and Navin Chawla were in favour of election. Finally, after chief secretaries of six states Bihar, UP, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana agreed to loan 4000-5000 Urdu-speaking government employees that EC decided to go for polls. Earlier, J&K CEO had asked EC to make alternate arrangements of polling officials. Unlike the four phase poll of 2002, Election Commission's decision to have seven-phase election this time is due to volatile situation in the valley after the Amarnath imbroglio. EC sources said that unlike the previous occasion, Valley is not witnessing terror activities from outside but there is a groundswell of anger against New Delhi. There is a wide variation in the number of assembly constituencies that go to poll in various phases. While the first phase would see polling in 10 constituencies, second will have poll in six and third in five constituencies. Fourth phase onwards number of constituencies going to poll increases. Jammu region will have poll in the last phase. Leh-Kargil area goes to poll in the first phase.