The Jammu and Kashmir administration is "giving final touches" to holding elections by the third week of October as the central government is keen to put a popular government in place there "well before the parliamentary elections", official sources said on Sunday.
All arrangements for conduct of Assembly elections are in place and "we can go ahead with the process any time it is announced by the Election Commission", a source in the state government said.
He revealed: "We have indications that the elections may be held in four phases beginning from the third week of October and finishing by the second week of November".
The new assembly had to be earlier elected by Nov 20. But the state came under Governor's rule on July 7 after Ghulam Nabi Azad put in his papers following withdrawal of support by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) on the issue of land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.
The six months of Governor's rule end on Jan 7, 2009, but "the election process must be over before the harsh wintry conditions set in".
The sources said the process of relocation of army troops for security and area domination, like flag marches, during the elections has "almost been completed". There would be "no army deployment for the conduct of elections which will perform its role of guarding the frontiers, security and area domination".
There are 13 divisions of the Army in Jammu and Kashmir - six in Jammu region, five in Kashmir and two in Ladakh, which total about 260,000 personnel in terms of numbers.
The administration would deploy police and paramilitary personnel for conduct of elections, like polling duties, personal security of candidates, security of public meetings and all other work related to elections. "We will be requiring about 600 additional companies of para-military troops (about 70,000 men) for election-related duties."
There are about 60,000 police personnel and about 40,000 para-military troops already present in the state.
There are about 6.5 million registered voters in Jammu and Kashmir who would be electing 87 representatives to the state legislative assembly - 37 in Jammu region with three million voters, 46 in Kashmir valley with 3.2 million and four in Ladakh with 300,000 voters.
The Election Commission (EC) has already begun the process of gauging the ground situation for the conduct of elections. The commission met leaders of different political parties Sep 8 during which the parties expressed moods and assessments ranging from readiness to hesitation.
The commission also held a series of meetings with the state government to review the situation and preparedness. "We have been told to be ready for elections any time after the second week of October," said a senior government official.