The Election Commission postponed on Monday the Anantnag Lok Sabha bypoll to May 25 after violent public protests marred voting in the Srinagar by-elections this weekend, which left eight people dead and hundreds wounded.
The poll panel said the Jammu and Kashmir administration has submitted that the law and order situation is not conducive to hold elections.
The decision was taken after Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer Shantmanu called a meeting with political parties to know their opinion about the April 12 by-election in Anantnag.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has asked the poll panel to postpone the Anantnag bypoll to avoid a repeat of the Srinagar violence.
Tasaduq Mufti, the brother of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and the PDP candidate for Anantnag, told reporters that the state government had formally written to the poll panel that elections couldn’t be held in the current climate.
But the opposition National Conference and the Congress argued that it was too late now to defer the Anantnag by-poll.
NC leader Akbar Lone said the credibility of the Election Commission is at stake, and warned that another round of widespread violence will engulf the insurgency-hit state if the Srinagar by-election was cancelled.
Former chief minister and NC leader Omar Abdullah tweeted: “Tassaduq’s statement is an indictment of his sister Mehbooba Mufti’s government and its abject failure. How can the BJP not see this?” The BJP is a coalition partner in the PDP-led government.
Congress leaders Usman Majid and GN Monga accused the PDP of mounting pressure on the Election Commission to postpone the by-polls.
PDP’s Waheed Parra responded that the party is seeking votes, not lives of people.
Time should be given for the situation to calm down and his party is ready to go for fresh elections in Srinagar, he said.
Fresh violence was reported, especially in Anantnag town and adjoining areas where a school building was torched and mobs threw stones at security personnel.
The Lok Sabha constituency is spread over Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian and Anantnag districts.
The Valley recorded a complete shutdown on Monday in response to a call from separatists.
Sunday’s violence followed a separatist call to boycott the by-elections, saying the situation is not right to hold a democratic exercise after last year’s unprecedented public unrest that left more than 80 people dead and hundreds wounded or maimed.
People took to the streets to enforce the boycott across the constituency straddling Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts. Polling staff abandoned almost 70% of booths in Budgam district. Army was called out to help security forces put out the protests as mobs threw stones and petrol bombs.
With agency inputs