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J&K government begins arrangements to hold polls

By Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar
October 17, 2008 02:34 IST
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Polls in Jammu and Kashmir seem imminent by the year-end, going by the state government vigour in securing the logistics required for the exercise.

The state election department's initiation of the process of poll related training of employees has triggered fresh speculation of polls taking place in the immediate future despite a decision on the timing still pending before the Election Commission.

The confabulation between the EC and the state's political parties and officers of state and central governments has been going on for over a month.

The state government has also issued directions to the state education department to conclude the annual examinations immediately.

All contingency plans are being worked out to meet any eventuality including importing the poll staff from other states as had happened during 1996 and 2002 elections.

The sudden down slide of weather in the valley, which saw upper reaches receiving the season's second snowfall and wintry conditions all round, may have also been a factor to speed up the process of holding elections.

The final decision, however, is to be taken by the EC which would be guided by their assessment of the situation in the state being conducive for holding the polls this year or deferring them for the next year.

The postponing of the decision by the EC this week had evoked a mixed reaction in Kashmir,with the National Conference demanding a firm decision from the EC.

"They have not said yes, they have not said no. They must come out clearly on what is their decision on the state polls," Omar Abdullah, the NC president said after the chief election commissioner, N. Gopalaswami announced the EC had been undecided on the poll dates in Jammu and Kashmir.

Asked whether his party would participate in the elections if dates for them were announced soon, Abdullah parried the question, "After the election commission announces dates, everybody would know what our decision would be."

However, while welcoming the deferring of decision by the EC on state polls, Peoples Democratic Party said the "party's stand that the situation in the state is not conducive for elections has been vindicated."

Mohammad Yasin Malik, the chairman of the pro-independence,  Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front labelled the poll deferment as "a moral victory for the separatists".

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Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar