Differences between the three election commissioners led to the postponement of a decision on holding elections in Jammu & Kashmir.
Sources close to the Election Commission (EC) said while commissioners Navin Chawla and S.Y. Quraishi were both keen on holding the poll in November-December, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami preferred holding them along with the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Given the renewed call for azaadi in the Kashmir valley in the last few months, a question mark hangs over the extent of popular participation any poll held there would draw. Gopalaswami is reported to have maintained that the ground situation would improve by next year leading to greater popular participation.
The other two commissioners, sources said, felt that postponing polls in that crucial state would send a wrong message worldwide, but Gopalaswami refused to budge.
Senior state and union home ministry officials have informed the EC that providing security would not be a problem, sources said. But Gopalaswami has publicly stated that factors ‘other than law and order’ would also influence the EC’s decision. “Boycott of the polls is our biggest worry,” a state EC official said.
In case of a split verdict, the majority decision will prevail, but it is learnt that all three commissioners are reluctant to make their differences public. “Pros and cons are being considered,” said Quraishi. Gopalaswami was not available for comment.
But the commission cannot wait too long to make up its mind. “Unless the dates are announced very soon, we will move into winter, considering it takes 35-40 to complete the poll process,” said an EC official. “Parts of the state will become snow bound and polls will not be possible until February-March.”
(With inputs from Aurangzeb Nasqhbandi in New Delhi and Arun Joshi in Jammu)