NEW DELHI, Aug 19 (2002):Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said on Monday that New Delhi would not postpone state elections in Kashmir, due in September and October, to allow more separatist groups to take part in the poll.
Kashmiri separatists, led by the 23-party All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, have refused to participate in the elections, complaining that they have been rigged in the past to favour pro-Indian political parties.
But an influential committee trying to bring peace to Kashmir, which held talks with separatist groups, raised the possibility on Sunday of postponing polls in the state which is at the heart of an eight-month standoff between India and Pakistan.
“I don’t think postponement of elections would have wider participation,” Advani said in interviews to Indian TV news channels.
Advani, considered a hardliner in the Hindu nationalist-led federal coalition, said it had become clear Kashmiri separatist groups “who are under Pakistan’s influence”, would not contest the elections due to “financial reasons” or “pure fear”.
“So therefore, our entire focus and attention is on ensuring that elections are free and fair,” Advani said.
The deputy prime minister said there was a clear message from Islamabad to the Hurriyat not to contest the elections after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf denounced the polls as farcical last week.
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