Continued violence in Kashmir evoked an appeal for postponement of the by-election to Anantnag constituency. There are also calls for a re-poll in the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, which recorded the lowest-ever voter turnout, of 7.14 per cent, on Sunday. The EC said late Monday night the Anantnag by-election, slated for Wednesday, has been postponed to May 25.
In Srinagar, the by-poll was necessitated after the sitting MP, Tariq Hameed Karra, resigned over alleged atrocities during the agitation that followed the killing of a separatist. In Anantnag, the seat was vacated by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who contested the Assembly election.
At a press conference called at the Chief Minister’s residence on Monday, Tassaduq Mufti, PDP leader and candidate for the Anantnag seat, told reporters: “My appeal to the Election Commission is to postpone the polls till the situation improves. It is my request.”
Asked if he would withdraw from the contest if the EC did not postpone the polls, the cinematographer-turned-politician said: “If it helps in postponing the elections to a more favourable time, I am happy to withdraw.”
The 45-year-old PDP leader’s statement immediately prompted former CM Omar Abdullah to reiterate that the continuing violence shows a complete breakdown of the law and order machinery, and that Mehbooba should resign.
“EC is well within its powers to postpone or countermand Anantnag election but if so, Mehbooba Mufti must resign and the Governor should take charge,” Abdullah said.
However, Tassaduq, who is also Mehbooba’s brother, dismissed suggestions that the violence in Kashmir is a reflection of the “anger” against the PDP for allying with the BJP.
Security forces were today deployed in strength in Srinagar city, a day after eight persons were killed in firing by security forces to quell stone pelting mobs during polling for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency.
A police official said a government school building was set on fire by miscreants in Paddarpora area of Shopian district late last night.
The school building, which was designated as a polling station, suffered partial damaged in the incident, he added. Miscreants also torched another school building in Arihal area of Pulwama district last night.
Constitutional obligation EC sources, meanwhile, said the Srinagar by-poll had to be held before April 16 as a constitutional obligation.
The State government was consulted over security issues, they said.
In EC’s assessment, if the conditions are conducive to hold Panchayat elections by the State government, then holding of parliamentary elections is also possible, they added.