Srinagar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has officially kickstarted the process of holding Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir by accepting applications for the use of common symbols for their candidatures. This came after Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar on Monday said that the ECI would start the process for holding the Assembly elections "very soon".

"The commission has decided to accept applications seeking allotment of the common symbol under Para 10B of election symbols (Reservation & Allotment) order 1968 for the General Election to the Legislative Assembly of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect," said Jaydeb Lahiri, Secretary of the Election Commission of India through a Press note.

The last Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections were held in 2014. After withdrawing support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on June 19, 2018, Mehbooba Mufti resigned from the position of Chief Minister, leading to the imposition of Governor's rule, followed by President's rule in the region.

On August 5, 2019, the central government abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A, reorganising the former state of J-K into two union territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Since then, the region has been under the governance of Lieutenant Governors.

A Delimitation Commission was set up in 2020 to redraw the boundaries of the Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies. Following the delimitation exercise, the number of assembly seats in the union territory has gone up from 83 to 90, excluding those allocated to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The exercise would mark the first Assembly elections in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370.

Last year, the Supreme Court upheld the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370, saying the provision was temporary and the abrogation was "constitutionally valid". The court directed that steps shall be taken by the Election Commission of India to conduct elections to the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir constituted under Section 14 of the Reorganisation Act by 30 September 2024. Restoration of statehood shall take place at the earliest and as soon as possible, the court said.

According to the Election Commission, the voter turnout in Jammu and Kashmir during the Lok Sabha elections was 58.58 per cent, including t voter turnout in Lok Sabha seats in the Kashmir valley was 51.05 per cent, the highest in almost four decades.

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