NEW DELHI: The Election Commission today said it has an "open mind" on when to hold Assembly elections in flood-hit Jammu and Kashmir amidst strong reservations from Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that the situation is not conducive for polls now.
Ahead of the visit of the full Commission to Srinagar tomorrow, Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said that a final decision on polls will be taken after discussions with state government and political parties. He indicated that a decision may be taken by month-end.
Questions have been raised over the suitability of holding elections now in the wake of the devastation the state suffered due to floods. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless in Srinagar and parts of the Valley, where the administration is involved in the process of rehabilitating people.
"As you know, the Commission whenever we look at these things, we never look at it with a closed mind. We go with an open mind. We take all the inputs, then we will take a decision," Sampath told PTI in an interview.
Asked whether the Commission was "hell-bent" on holding elections on schedule, he said, "We are neither hell nor bent."
Though the CEC did not specify the time for deciding on the polls, he said the same will be done soon after receiving all inputs, including the ground situation, reports from state poll authorities and their own besides views of various political parties.
"After we come back, taking such further inputs as may be necessary, we will come to a conclusion on holding elections," he said.
The six-year term of the 87-member Assembly expires on January 19.
Asked about the report of the state Chief Electoral Officer as well as that of the Deputy Election Commissioner who visited the state, Sampath said, "All these things don't have a finality until we visit the place and come to some some conclusion."
The CEC said the Commission has the mandate to hold elections as per the schedule before January 19 when the six-year term of the 87-member Assembly expires.
Sampath said the Commission has waited for some time for normalcy to return before holding elections, after floods hit certain parts of the state in September this year causing widespread devastation and loss to property.
He said we will wait for various reports on "conduciveness" in the state for holding elections before taking a final view in this regard.
Talking about the scheduled visit of the full Commission, comprising the CEC and two Election Commissioners H S Brahma and S N A Zaidi, he said they will hold meetings civil and police officials as well as leaders of political parties as part of their pre-election visit.
"According to the schedule, we have to hold elections to Jammu and Kashmir Assembly before January 19. That is the schedule according to which we have to hold elections. Because of the recently adverse seasonal conditions, floods etc, we wanted to find out whether conditions are conducive for holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
Sampath said, "Our mandate is to hold elections for Jammu and Kashmir. We waited for sometime for things to settle down reasonably. We sent our senior officer Deputy Electoral Officer, who visited both Jammu region and the Valley. He has come with certain feedback. The full commission will be visiting the state tomorrow."
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that the situation is "not conducive" in the state for holding elections, saying there will be "zero percentage turnout" in the capital city Srinagar.
Asked about this, Sampath said the Commission will take a call on the issue and the National Conference can air views during their meeting with the Commission.