After a bitter blame game over the Srinagar by-poll fiasco, the Election Commission (EC) and Union home ministry smoked the peace pipe on Wednesday and discussed security arrangements for the Anantnag by-poll in the violence-hit Kashmir Valley.
Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi held an hour-long meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and senior colleagues to discuss requirement of security forces for holding Anantnag parliamentary constituency by-poll.
The election was originally slated for April 12 but was deferred to May 25 following the violence-marred election in the neighbouring Srinagar parliamentary constituency on April 9 that left eight people dead.
The abysmally low 7% polling in Srinagar amid incidents of damaging and looting electronic voting machines (EVMs) sparked a war of words between the home ministry and the EC.
Home ministry officials said the EC didn’t consult it before announcing schedule of the by-polls in Jammu and Kashmir and the EC retaliated by saying it is not duty-bound to hold consultation with the ministry. EC officials had also said that the ministry’s brief is limited to providing central forces.
The home ministry had provided around 30000 additional security personnel for Srinagar and Anantnag by-polls as demanded by the EC but on the hindsight that number may have been inadequate.
Besides, sources say, many of the companies reached only one or two days before the polling and they didn’t get any time to familiarise themselves with the mood of the Valley.
“So we saw, jawans returning from poll duty being heckled and slapped by protestors. Jawans were not properly prepared to deal with the situation. This time we will give enough time to security forces to reach the Valley for the Anantnag by-poll to acclimatise,” said a home ministry source.
The EC will specify its requirements in terms of security personnel early to give enough time to the ministry to move the forces.
“The priority is now to hold Anantnag by-poll peacefully, only then the timing of Panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir will be decided,” a senior home ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Home ministry sources said a call will be taken soon on a visit by Union home minister Rajnath Singh to the Valley to engage the civil society there. Singh had visited the Valley twice last year amid unrest following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
“Assembly polls are over. The parliament session has also ended. So a decision might be taken on the home minister’s visit to the Valley now,” said the source.