Not forcing civic polls on people, says chief secretary

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Chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam said on Tuesday that the upcoming civic elections in Jammu and Kashmir were not being forced on people and asserted that “adequate” security arrangements have been made for smooth conduct of the elections “which are solely about Bijli, Pani, Sadak matters.”
Addressing a news conference here, the chief secretary said that holding the panchayat and urban local body elections in the state from next month was not an issue of “anything being thrust upon people.”
“How do you know what is the ‘will’ of the people? If you go to Jammu, there is a lot of enthusiasm on the ground and you also see poll campaigning on the streets there,” he said, when asked about assertions by some mainstream political parties that these polls were being thrust upon the people.
Subrahmanyam said that two national-level political parties, the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, are participating in the elections.
“Let us wait till the elections are over. This issue (of alleged forcing of elections on people) is going to be decided by the people themselves,” he said.
The urban local body elections are being held in four-phases from October 8, while the nine-phased panchayat polls shall begin on November 17. Two principal mainstream political parties in the state—the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party—have boycotted the elections, citing “assault” on Article 35-A which has been challenged in the Supreme Court. Also, the Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik have impressed upon the people to stay away from these elections “because they are no substitute to right to self-determination.”
Subrahmanyam said that the previous Governor NN Vohra as well as the incumbent Governor Satya Pal Malik had an “active dialogue” with all mainstream political parties over holding of the civic elections.
“There is not a single party which hasn’t met the governor (over holding of polls) multiple times,” he said, and disclosed that more than 700 nomination forms have been taken by prospective candidates for the first phase of urban local body elections.
‘GETTING 400 MORE COMPANIES OF FORCES’
The chief secretary said that “more than adequate” security arrangements have been made to “ensure free and fair elections.”
“There are some security concerns about the polling staff and candidates. But we have made very good and unprecedented arrangements for all of them,” he said.
He said that 400 additional companies of central paramilitary forces are being deployed for the polls, in addition to the strength of forces already available in the state.
“This is being done in spite of the fact that there is a lot of pressure vis-a-vis requirement of security forces for elections in other states,” the chief secretary said, adding that “this shows our seriousness towards the electoral exercise.”
About threats by some militant groups to the contesting candidates, the chief secretary said that they are confident of handling things.

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