National Conference president Omar Abdullah on Sunday welcomed the announcement of elections to Jammu and Kashmir, saying "any form of democracy was better than Governor’s rule” under which the troubled state has been placed since July 10.
The Election Commission on Sunday issued a statement announcing seven-phased polls in Jammu and Kashmir from Nov 17 to Dec 24. Counting will be held Dec 28.
Omar Abdullah was the first senior regional politician to react to the poll schedule announcement.
“I am happy the uncertainty over poll dates has been ended today," he said.
“I am concerned about the voter turnout, especially in cities and towns where the turnout would be less than adequate. But there is no guarantee that the situation would be any better if we had waited up to March or April next year (for the polls),” Omar Abdullah told reporters on phone from New Delhi.
He maintained that a seven-phased poll was unprecedented, but held that winter elections were nothing new in the state.
“Yes, a seven-phase poll schedule is unprecedented, but winter elections have been held here in the past as well and there is nothing unusual about that,” he said.
Asked whether his party has decided to enter into an electoral alliance with any other political party, Omar Abdullah said: “We have not held any discussions on poll alliances so far.”
The other major regional political party in the Valley, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which favoured deferment of polls, has decided to hold a meeting of its leaders Sunday afternoon before announcing its decision about poll participation.
Sources close to the PDP, however, told IANS that the party was likely to participate in the polls though they still maintained that the elections should have been held after announcement of some confidence building measures by the central government to address what the sources said was “the anger of the people in the Valley to ensure a respectable voter turnout during the polls”.
Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami, state general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), said: “Although elections are no solution to the problem of Kashmir, their relevance to governance cannot be wished away.
“Now that the poll dates have been announced by the Election Commission of India, it is both an opportunity and a challenge for the political parties in the state,” he said.