Tuesday, August 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

J&K poll on schedule
Centre, EC rule out postponement
Tribune News Service & PTI

New Delhi, August 19
The demand made by the Kashmir Committee headed by Mr Ram Jethmalani for the postponement of the four-phase poll to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was today rejected by the Centre and the Election Commission.

"I don’t think that postponement of the poll would ensure wider participation because it is clear that there are elements under Pakistan’s influence due to financial reasons or fear. They will not participate," Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said here.

Earlier in the day, Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh, who is on a visit to Jammu and Kashmir along with Election Commissioners T.S. Krishnamurthy and B.B. Tandon for the assessment of poll preparations, said in Srinagar that the Election Commission had no "intention" of postponing the poll and that any decision regarding poll deferment could only be taken by the Centre.

Stating that the Hurriyat Conference was following the diktats of Pakistan, Mr Advani said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s August 14 address, in which he denounced the Jammu and Kashmir elections as "farcical", was a clear message to "saner elements" not to participate.

"Their participation had always been in doubt and the sections inclined to participate were deterred after Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone’s assassination... Even so, many citizens wanted to participate but President Musharraf’s statement denouncing the Jammu and Kashmir elections is a clear message given to those in the Hurriyat not to participate...The Hurriyat’s decision was not a great surprise," he said.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: "It has to be kept in mind that changing the dates which have already been announced will provoke a reaction among certain sections of the people."

Asked whether he thought Pakistan was behind the fatal attack on APHC leader Abdul Ghani Lone and whether such attacks were a message to those who wanted to take part in the poll, he said: "Correct, there is no doubt about it."

The "murderous attacks" against those who favoured the elections were meant to send a message to these sections "not to participate in the poll by putting their lives in danger", he said.

To another question whether the Centre favoured holding of election in Jammu and Kashmir under Governor’s rule, Mr Advani said: "It is for them (state government) to decide. We will not impose anything on Jammu and Kashmir".

"Not only should the elections be free and fair, but they should also seem free and fair," he said, adding that efforts were on to ensure mass participation in the elections and several individuals and groups were trying to work in that direction.

JAMMU: The Chief Election Commissioner, Mr J.M. Lyngdoh, who visited Srinagar and Jammu, told newspersons on Monday that the “elections will be held as per schedule and the required notification will be issued for the four-phase polling on August 22,” adding that “postponement of the poll does not go well with the commission.”

Reminded of the demand made by the Kashmir Committee, Mr Lyngdoh said: “We are not politicians. We have our procedure to attend to recommendations and we have found that there is no valid reason for the deferment of the poll.”

Referring to the security scenario, he said: “All steps will be taken to ensure the safety and protection of voters and the candidates. Though we are not in control of the entire security, we are prepared to handle every aspect of the issue.”

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Pramod Jain told reporters in Srinagar that steps had been taken to ensure free, fair and smooth conduct of elections. “As part of our efforts, we have drawn from Uttar Pradesh and Punjab around 5,000 officers who have already functioned as polling officers, to eliminate any bias factor,” he said.

He said four officials would be deputed at each polling station — two from outside and two from the state — by a random selection process.

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