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Peaceful Amarnath Yatra may decide poll dates in Jammu and Kashmir
6/13/2019 1:53:53 PM

New Delhi, June 13

A successful completion of the Amarnath Yatra beginning July 1 will be crucial in deciding if Jammu and Kashmir can vote in November to elect a new assembly, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The state was put under President’s rule on December 19 last year after none of the political parties had staked claim to form government, and it is likely to be extended for another six months.

Prior to this, Governor’s rule was imposed and the assembly was put under suspended animation after the Bharatiya Janata Party pulled out of the People’s Democratic Party-led coalition government in June 2018. “The home ministry has told the Election Commission it can provide necessary support for election in November,” one of the two people cited above said. “But, the successful completion of Amarnath Yatra will be crucial. Any untoward incident may be a spoiler.”

Last week, the Election Commission said it would take a call on announcing assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir after assessing the situation following the Amarnath Yatra. In March, the EC decided not to hold polls for the assembly and Lok Sabha simultaneously in the states, citing security concerns. The second person dismissed reports about the Centre’s plan to carry out delimitation exercise in the state to bring more assembly seats under Jammu region, where it has a foothold.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah, red-flagged such a move.

“First, there is no such move to redraw boundaries of assembly segments,” the second leader said. “Second, it is wrong to suggest that redrawing boundaries would mean more seats for Jammu. An assembly constituency is redrawn on the basis of 8 points, and not just population.” The government is, however, expecting that the Supreme Court will take a decision on Article 35A, and it will help restore the rights of the non-residents and the refugees from western Pakistan who do not enjoy right to property and are denied voting rights in assembly and local bodies despite living in the state for more than 70 years.

Article 35A of the Indian Constitution empowers the J&K assembly to define “permanent residents” for bestowing special rights and privileges on them.

“The court will take up the matter next month. We expect the court to strike it down. It will be in the interest of the nation and lakhs of people in J&K who are denied genuine rights,” the first leader said. “It obviously will have a bearing on the polls.”

There are about 2 lakh refugees from west Pakistan [who have voting rights for Lok Sabha elections but not for assembly polls] living in Kashmir and if Article 35A is scrapped, they will be treated as residents and will be eligible to vote for local elections as well.
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