JAMMU: Amid criticism by political parties over the ECI's decision not to hold state polls with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shalinder Kumar Sunday said "we must respect the wisdom of the election commission" as simultaneous polls were not possible due to the prevailing security situation in the state.
He said the incident like February 14 Pulwama terror attack on a CRPF convoy has put the administration on alert and all necessary measures have been taken to ensure free and fair elections across the state including the border areas facing frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
"We must respect the wisdom of the EC for whatever decision has been taken. It is decided, now so why and what may not be serving any purpose. Let us take it in a stride that single election has been announced and now let us conduct a single election in a most free and fair manner," Kumar told reporters here this evening.
Asked if security atmosphere was the condition for not holding simultaneous elections, then how the EC going to conduct Lok Sabha polls, he said "having both the elections together means that you need more security for candidates."
"We have 87 assembly constituencies and if we roughly calculate at least 900 candidates will be in the fray. All those candidates are required to be provided with security especially in the valley at both the places - whenever he goes out of his house for campaigning and at his house. This is an additional requirement," the CEO said.
Kumar said during assembly, the campaign area remains very large and the candidate tries to reach out to his electorate, thereby putting pressure on police to provide a larger area security and area domination besides giving security to his election meetings.
"When we go for simultaneous elections, the requirement of security goes manyfold so we generally understand that the security requirement remains same. It is not like that as we have 10 candidates in every parliamentary constituency which would be around 60 candidates."
"If assembly elections are held together we have 1000 candidates which is a large number. In Jammu division, we have certain areas where movement of militants and incidents of subversive kind of things have happened," he said defending the EC's decision.
The Congress, National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flayed the Centre for not holding the assembly polls along with the parliamentary election, which will be held in five phases in the state.
Terming the February 14 attack on the CRPF convoy as "very sad and tragic", he said the elections are being conducted in the state in a very challenging situation.
"That type of incident had definitely put us on alert. We have to devise our own mechanism to avert that type of situation," he said, adding it is heartening that within days of that incident the police was able to get the mastermind that shows about the strength and capability of "our security set up".
On the challenge due to continuous shelling by Pakistan along the borders, he said "what is happening on the borders is not happening for the first time."
"Definitely, the administration has prepared its plan to meet the challenge of shelling on the polling day. We have no direct control over cross-border shelling," he said.
Kumar said the model code of conduct has came into force with the announcement of the polls and "we will ensure its implementation strictly."
On the steps to ensure maximum participation of the people in the democratic exercise, he said "we are going aggressively for two things - one is enrolment of new voters which is very encouraging this time and secondly the EC can only appeal to the voters to come out and vote. As per election law it is not mandatory for every voter to vote."
Kumar said the election commission is going to launch an APP called 'C-vigil' and it will go online when the first election notification would be issued eight days later.
"Any citizen can upload information about violation of model code of conduct on this APP which will directly land in the EC server, CEO server and district election office server. It is a very big step," the CEO said.
He said district election officers and senior superintendent of police have been directed to keep a strict watch in communally sensitive areas.
Lok Sabha elections will begin on April 11 and continue for over a month till May 19 across seven phases, followed by counting of votes on May 23, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced in New Delhi on Sunday.
The polling will be held on April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19 for 543 Lok Sabha seats across the country in which nearly 90 crore voters would be eligible to vote, the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said at a packed press conference.