New Delhi and Srinagar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) Tuesday pulled up Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor G.C. Murmu for repeatedly making statements on the timing of the Jammu and Kashmir election, asserting that doing so is the “sole remit” of the ECI.
In a sharply-worded statement issued to the media, the ECI said, “It would be proper for authorities other than Election Commission to refrain from making such statements which virtually tantamount to interfering with the Constitutional mandate of the Election Commission.”
The commission noted that Murmu had been making statements about the timing of the election since December 2019 to different media outlets.
In his latest interview to The Tribune, L-G Murmu said elections in the Union territory could be held after the ongoing delimitation exercise.
Many things have to be taken into account for holding polls, including “topography, weather, sensitivities arising out of regional and local festivities”, and in the constitutional scheme of things, only the commission can decide the timings of the polls, the statement said.
Elections in the UT have not been held since the elected government collapsed two years ago, with the poll body citing security concerns as the reason.
Sources in the ECI said while the commission had not communicated its reservations to Murmu, this was a “serious concern” that needed to be raised.
ThePrint tried to contact Murmu via phone calls and text messages but did not receive a reply till the time of publishing this report.
However, sources in Jammu and Kashmir said the ECI statement on Murmu’s interview should not be seen as an “isolated event”.
A 1985-batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, Murmu was appointed the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir in October last year.
Before his stint as the first L-G of the UT, he served as the expenditure secretary in the Ministry of Finance, and was known to be one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trusted civil servants, having worked closely with him in Gujarat.
Lieutenant governor clashes with chief secretary
Since his stint in J&K began, Murmu is learnt to have caused a stir with his recent statement regarding restoration of 4G Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, even as the Centre maintained that the situation is not conducive yet.
Sources said within government circles it is common knowledge that the offices of the L-G and J&K Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam have been at loggerheads on various issues, and restoration of high speed internet was just one of them.
“The last time there was a difference of opinion between the two offices on holding the annual Amarnath Yatra. One side emerged successful on that issue but restoration of high speed internet is a more sensitive matter given that the administration has been maintaining that the internet restrictions have and will prevent law and order situation in the UT,” said a senior Jammu & Kashmir government official, requesting anonymity.
“The Home department and the office of CS (chief secretary) firmly believes that high speed internet will be misused by mischievous elements here. Other quarters in the administration do not subscribe to the belief and this includes the L-G as he made it very clear in his interview last week,” the official added.
ThePrint had earlier reported on the tussles between the two offices.
A second source in the J&K administration said the summoning of both L-G and the chief secretary to New Delhi earlier this month to discuss policy matters also had to do with the ongoing feud.
“It won’t be a surprise if we witness a major reshuffle in J&K bureaucracy in the coming time. There are some major decisions to be taken and the Centre would like an administration in J&K with lesser conflicts,” said the official.
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