Last week, the chief electoral officer of Jammu and Kashmir, Hardesh Kumar Singh, addressing a press conference in Jammu said that the special summary revision of electoral rolls in the union territory, being conducted after January 1, 2019, is likely to add around 25 lakh new voters to the existing voters’ list and that post-abrogation of Article 370, an ‘ordinarily residing person’, not necessarily a permanent resident, can become a voter in J&K to exercise his right to franchise.
He said the new voters may include youth about to become major, non-local labourers, businesspersons, students and service voters like armed and paramilitary forces.
The statement of J&K Chief Electoral Officer triggered strong reactions from mainstream politicians. Except, BJP leaders of all the political parties termed it a ploy to further undermine rights of people of J&K. Even the leaders of political parties that are considered close to New Delhi wanted Prime Minister and Home Minister of India to clarify things vis a vis voting rights of non-locals. Even the leaders who enjoy good rapport with New Delhi seemed unhappy with the statement of the J&K’s chief Electoral Officer, especially when the leaders believe the elections first after the J&K was declared UT could be held by the end of this year or next year. Even leaders in Jammu termed the decision dangers for the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
People’s Democratic Party President, Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday termed it as a last nail in the coffin of democracy and said that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was bringing its voters from backdoor to install a fascist here.
Mufti said that after the delimitation exercise, the latest announcement by chief electoral officer (CEO) that non-locals can also register to vote was aimed to change not only the demography of Muslims but also of Dogras and Kashmiri Pandits. “The new decree is by the CEO by virtue of which 25 lakh non-local BJP voters would be included here. This is the last nail in the coffin of electoral democracy here,” she said.
Mufti alleged that ‘half of the rigging and gerrymandering’ was done by the delimitation commission while now they want to reduce the vote power of people of J&K. “In a way they want to disenfranchise people of J&K because when 25 lakh voters of BJP will come from outside then what will be the benefit of the vote of Jammu or Kashmir,” she said.
She said that BJP has only one motive to make its own government everywhere. “Today not only is democracy in danger in J&K but this process of rigging is going on in the whole country. In states rigging happens during elections and there are allegations of EVMs, money exchange, muscle power and then how rigging is done after elections like in Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and now Jharkhand and Rajasthan are in line. On the basis of money, power and agencies like ED, they do such rigging,” she alleged.
“In J&K they want to install a fascist local, using fraudulent elections. Three years have passed since they have directly ruled here and still, they could not break the resolve of people here. Now they are using a backdoor and bringing 25 lakh voters of BJP to install a fascist here and bring demographic changes. These changes are not for Muslims only but also for Jammu’s Dogras and Pandits here,” she said.
Mufti said that after 2024 elections, BJP will turn the national flag into Bhagwa flag.
“I want to tell the people of my country; BJP subverted our constitution and flag after 2019 but next turn is yours. They did it unconstitutionally,” she said.
“After 2024 elections, they are going to finish the constitution of this country and change its flag into the ‘Bhagwa’ flag. They want to turn this country into BJP rashtra, not Hindu rashtra. That is why they are breaking assemblies to make their own governments. This is part of the same chain in J&K,” she said.
Mufti said that the latest onslaught in J&K was aimed to change the demography and the local element here.
Former J&K chief minister and NC vice president, Omar Abdullah said that now BJP needs to import voters to win seats in the UT. “Is the BJP so insecure about support from genuine voters of J&K that it needs to import temporary voters to win seats? None of these things will help the BJP when the people of J&K are given a chance to exercise their franchise,” Omar Abdullah tweeted.
Taking to microblogging platform Twitter, Sajad Lone Peoples Conference chairman said, “This is dangerous. I don’t know what they want to achieve. This is much more than a mischief. Democracy is a relic especially in the context of Kashmir. Please remember 1987. We are yet to come out of that. Don’t replay 1987. It will be as disastrous.”
Apni Party president, Altaf Bukhari on Thursday sought clarification from Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and Home Minister, Amit Shah about the announcement of J&K Electoral Officer that non locals could vote in the upcoming assembly polls in J&K. ” When it came to our notice that non locals could vote here or get themselves enrolled as voters, people began thinking whether this is ploy to change our demography,” he said adding that after abrogation of Article 370, his party was the first to start political activities and resolve issues of people. “We request Prime Minister and Home Minister to clear this confusion and clarify this as people are perturbed here. After August 5, 2019, this time again people have apprehensions here that our demography is being changed.”
Meanwhile, NC president Farooq Abdullah called for All Parties Meeting in Srinagar at his Gupkar residence to discuss the issue. Except BJP all the other parties have been invited for the meeting.
However, sensing trouble, J&K government says addition of 2.5 million votes ‘misrepresentation of facts’ spread by ‘vested interests’.
The J&K government’s Directorate of Information and Public Relations issued a clarification in a statement saying that the revision of electoral rolls will cover existing residents of the union territory.
“(The) increase in numbers will be of voters who have attained the age of 18 years as on 1.10.2022 or earlier,” said the statement.
“There have been media reports that more than 25 lakh additions will be there in the electoral rolls…This is a misrepresentation of facts, which is being spread by the vested interests,” it said.
“Number of electors as published in the special summary revision of J&K in 2011 was 66,00,921; and the number of electors as on today in the electoral roll of J&K is 76,02,397. This increase is mainly due to the new voters, who attained the age of 18 years,” the statement said.
It said that the summary revision enables young eligible persons to register themselves as voters. “Besides, it also allows a person who has changed his ordinary place of residence to enroll at a new location by getting himself deleted at the old location,” the government said.
It also said that there is no change in rules regarding buying of property and jobs in the government of J&K and have no link to representation of voters or otherwise.
After the fresh delimitation, the number of seats in J&K legislative assembly have increased to 90. Fresh seven seats were added during the delimitation exercise, six in Jammu division and one in Kashmir division. After the fresh delimitation exercise the process for holding elections in the UT has begun and final electoral rolls will be published on November 25.
Meanwhile, on Monday in an all-party meet, the resolution was passed and termed the move unacceptable to all political parties.
“It is not only determinantal to Kashmir but to all parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Our history, existence and the sincerity is under tremendous threat now. And we all reject it,” said Dr Farooq Abdullah flanked by al l other political leaders.