After the particular revision of electoral lists, which is being done for the first time since Article 370 was repealed, Jammu and Kashmir is expected to gain an extra 25 lakh voters, including foreigners, an election official said on Wednesday.
Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti reacted angrily to the decision by Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar. They criticised the Centre, saying this would not benefit the BJP when the people of J&K are allowed to vote.
According to Mr Kumar, the current process of completing the detailed summary review of the electoral records by November 25 is “difficult.”
The extensive process is being carried out to ensure that all eligible voters, including those who will turn 18 on October 1, 2022, or earlier, are registered to offer a final list that is “error-free,” the top electoral officer told reporters.
The Election Commission recently released a revised schedule, which states that an integrated draught electoral roll will be published on September 15 and that claims and objections may be filed between September 15 and October 25, with a deadline for resolution of those claims and objections of November 10.
Before the release of the final electoral rolls on November 25, the commission’s approval for the final publication, updating of the database, and the printing of supplements was scheduled for November 19.
“The special summary revision of electoral registers is taking place for the first time after January 1, 2019, and given that a significant number of youth have achieved the age of 18 or 18 and over during the last three years, we are anticipating enormous changes in the voter list.”
In addition, anyone who is living normally can also take advantage of the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in J&K following the provisions of the representation of the Peoples Act, Mr Kumar said. “After the abrogation of Article 370, many people who were not enlisted as voters in the erstwhile state of J&K are now eligible to vote,” he said.
According to him, J&K’s anticipated population of adults 18 and older is over 98 lakh, while the most recent voter list only shows 76 lakh registered voters.
The final list will likely include 20 to 25 lakh new voters, Mr Kumar said, adding that authorities have been warned to ensure the list is “error-free.”
An individual does not need a domicile certificate from J&K to register to vote, according to Mr Kumar.
“Anyone who habitually resides in J&K, whether an employee, student, labourer, or visitor from outside, may add their name to the voting list. The relevant government authorities will examine the papers and decide after they are satisfied with the allegation.
As in the past, he said, residents of J&K who serve in the security services and are stationed outside the Union Territory are eligible to register as service voters and use the postal balloting option.
“Similarly, people from other regions of the nation who are assigned here have the choice to register as voters if they are placed in a peace station. Anyone from outside who is stationed in the military services in Jammu has the choice to register as a voter, he added.
He said the number of assembly seats grew to 90 after the delimitation operation.
“Some change has occurred in each of the 90 constituencies… We are mapping out the existing and new constituencies to prepare for the particular summary revision (SSR). Kumar expressed his happiness with the current pre-SSR work.
He claimed that 600 more voting places had been added, bringing the total number of polling places in Jammu & Kashmir to 11,370.
The amended registration forms now include a clause that allows Aadhaar numbers to be linked to information on the electoral rolls, according to the top electoral officer.
The commission, according to him, would provide additional security measures on voter cards.
He said there is already a special provision for displaced groups that allows Kashmiri migrants outside the valley to exercise their right to vote.
They (migrant Kashmiri Pandits) are registered to vote in their native districts. For the registration of new voters, specialised camps are being held for them in several locations, including Delhi, Jammu, and Udhampur. All of them would get voter ID cards, he said
He rejected claims that Muslims from Rohingya who has sought refuge in Jammu and other locations might register as voters. “We have the police here that are obedient to their duties.”
Omar Abdullah, vice president of the National Conference, responded to the chief election officer’s comments by asking, “Is the BJP so uncertain about the support of J&K’s actual voters that it has to import temporary voters to gain seats?
Omar Abdullah tweeted, “None of these things will assist the BJP when the people of J&K are allowed to exercise their franchise.”
Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “GOI’s decision to postpone voting in J&K is intended to sway election outcomes after flagrant gerrymandering tipped the scale in the BJP’s favour. The objective is to continue to oppress the people of J&K by governing with an iron grip.
Sajad Lone of the J&K Peoples Conference said, “This is risky. I’m not sure what they want to accomplish. This is not just simple mischief. Especially in the context of Kashmir, democracy is a relic. Please keep 1987 in mind. We have yet to recover from it. Don’t play 1987 again. It will be just as terrible.