The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday, 20 August, clarified that reports of a likely addition of over 25 lakh voters after the summary revision of electoral rolls is "misrepresentation of facts by vested interests."
The clarification was issued through an advertisement in local dailies after facing political backlash, including from parties perceived close to the government. National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah has called an all-party meeting over the issue on Monday.
Jammu and Kashmir's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Hirdesh Kumar recently said the Union territory was likely to get around 25 lakh additional voters, including outsiders, following the special summary revision of electoral rolls being held for the first time after Article 370 abrogation.
"We are expecting massive changes in the voter list given that a large number of youngsters have attained the age of 18 over the past three years."
"After Article 370 abrogation, many people who were not enlisted as voters in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir are now eligible to vote. Also, anyone who is living ordinarily can avail the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in J&K under the provisions of The Representation of the People Act," Kumar told reporters in Jammu on 17 August.
He said the projected 18-plus population in Jammu and Kashmir is around 98 lakh while the number of enlisted voters is 76 lakh.
'Expect Addition of 20-25 Lakh New Voters': Election Official
"We are expecting an addition of 20 to 25 lakh new voters in the final list," Kumar had said, adding the officials concerned have been asked to ensure the list is error-free and covers all eligible voters.
He had also said there is no need for a person to have a domicile certificate of Jammu and Kashmir to become a voter.
"An employee, a student, a labourer or anyone from outside who is living ordinarily in J-K, can enlist his or her name in the voting list. The documents will be scrutinised by government officials concerned who will take a decision after being satisfied with the claim," Kumar had said.
No Change in Special Provision for Kashmiri Migrants
The advertisement published in local dailies by the Directorate of Information and Public Relations, stated the summary revision of electoral rolls is undertaken by the Election Commission from time to time according to the laid down process.
There is no change in the special provisions for Kashmiri migrants for their enrolment in the electoral rolls of their native constituencies and the summary revision will cover existing residents of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, it said.
"They will continue to be given the option of voting at their place of enrolment or through postal ballot or through specially set up polling stations at Jammu, Udhampur, Delhi, etc," the advertisement said.
The administration said there have been media reports claiming over 25 lakh voters will be added to the electoral rolls once the revision process starts.
"This is a misrepresentation of facts spread by vested interests. This revision of electoral rolls will cover existing residents of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the increase in numbers will be of voters who have attained the age of 18 years as of October 1, 2022, or earlier," it said.
Criticism From Political Parties
Mainstream political parties have alleged that "inclusion of non-locals was a clear-cut ploy to disenfranchise the people of Jammu and Kashmir".
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti had said the move to allow outsiders residing ordinarily in Jammu and Kashmir for jobs, education or business to register as voters was the "last nail in the coffin of democracy here".
On Saturday, National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said the "inclusion of non-local voters" in Jammu and Kashmir's electoral rolls was "unacceptable" and a "ploy to disempower the people".
To clear the air, the Jammu and Kashmir administration in the newspaper advertisement said the summary revision was to enable eligible young people to register themselves as voters.
Besides, it also allows a person who has changed his residence to enrol at a new location by getting his name deleted from the electoral rolls at the earlier location, it said.
The number of electors in the Special Summary Revision of Jammu and Kashmir state in 2011 was 66,00,921 and the number in the electoral roll of the Union Territory now is 76,02,397, the Information Department said. "This increase is mainly due to the new voters, who attained the age of 18," it added.
The administration clarified there is no change in rules for buying property and getting jobs in Jammu and Kashmir and "have no link to the representation of voters or otherwise".
Welcoming the clarification, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari said "it was a victory for the people". He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah and said the clarification has put an end to the controversy.
Earlier, the Congress said it will oppose the inclusion of non-local voters in the electoral rolls of Jammu and Kashmir and is mulling a legal challenge.
The move is illegal, claimed AICC J-K in-charge Rajini Patil in Srinagar, adding the Congress will attend the all-party meeting convened by Farooq Abdullah over the issue.
The BJP defended the chief electoral officer, saying his remarks are "legally and constitutionally" correct.
Chief spokesperson of the party's J-K unit Sunil Sethi said under law any citizen of India can choose to be a voter in any area, state or Union Territory, where he or she may ordinarily reside.
"The same is being made applicable to Jammu and Kashmir only. Post abrogation of Article 370, there has to be 'One India One Law'," he said and accused the other parties of trying to project a "wrong picture" while still living in pre-August 5, 2019.
"They are trying to create exceptions in Jammu and Kashmir which is not permissible. People have welcomed the decision (Article 370 abrogation) without exception or reservation. Political parties have to realise it and live with it," he said.