Farooq Abdullah | Photo: PTI
New Delhi: A delegation of Opposition leaders from Jammu and Kashmir led by veteran politician and Lok Sabha member Farooq Abdullah met Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar on Thursday and pressed for holding early assembly polls in the Union Territory for reviving the democratic process there.
After consulting almost all national and regional parties, the National Conference (NC) president along with leaders from Congress, CPI (M), Dogra Sabha, Panther's Party, PDP and Awami National Conference, met Kumar and other members of the Election Commission (EC) here and submitted a memorandum demanding early polls.
The two-page memorandum has as its signatories NCP leader Sharad Pawar, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and AAP leader Sanjay Singh, among others.
Following his meeting with the CEC, Abdullah told reporters that the delegation had a "good meeting" and the CEC "heard us patiently".
"All of us, who are from Kashmir and Jammu and representing people from all sections, favoured early restoration of democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
"We informed them that the work of the Delimitation Commission has also been completed and boundaries of the constituencies has also been completed, so now the polls should be held at the earliest," Abdullah said, adding that "the CEC assured us that the commission would be meeting soon to take stock of the situation".
In the memorandum, the leaders said the EC is under the Constitutional obligation to hold assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
The delegation informed the CEC and other members of the commission that the government has been claiming of restoring normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and that now the onus is on the EC (to hold assembly elections), the NC leader said.
"So, we asked why was the commission not taking note of the plight of the people of Jammu and Kashmir," Abdullah, a three-time chief minister of the erstwhile state, said.
In 2019, the Centre abrogated Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated the state into Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The last assembly elections were held in 2014.
In the memorandum, the leaders said "in disregard to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, an unrepresentative and unaccountable bureaucracy is allowed to run the government to the discomfort and inconvenience of the general public".
The delegation said any further "delay in and denial of assembly elections would amount to denial of fundamental and democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and a breach of Constitutional obligations".
The panchayat elections and elections to other public representative institutions cannot be a substitute to legislative assembly elections and the government and for that matter, the EC cannot avoid and delay assembly elections on that ground, the delegation said in the memorandum.
"Had it been so, there would be no need to conduct assembly elections in states, as the EC is with due dispatch and punctuality, as is evident from recently held assembly elections in Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland and the elections scheduled to be held in Karnataka," it said.
The opposition leaders said in each case, the argument though, inherently specious, could have been that as panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) were in place there was no need to hold assembly elections.
The Union home minister and other functionaries of the government of India have more than once stated that the government is ready to facilitate conduct of assembly elections and the final call is to be taken by the EC, the leaders claimed.
They said the assembly elections would be the first and important step towards restoration of all the Constitutional rights guaranteed in the Constitution and fulfilment of political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The leaders urged the CEC to announce assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir without any further delay and notify the election schedule so that the democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and access to democratic institutions is restored. PTI