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J&K May Get 25 Lakh New Voters Including Outsiders, Mehbooba and Omar Hit Out

J&K could get 25 lakh additional voters including outsiders after the special summary revision of electoral rolls.

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Jammu and Kashmir is likely to get around 25 lakh additional voters, including outsiders, after the special summary revision of electoral rolls being held for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370, an official said on Wednesday, 17 August.

The announcement by the Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar drew angry reaction from former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti who attacked the Union government, saying this will not help the Bharatiya Janata Party when the people of J&K are given a chance to exercise their franchise.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah has called for an all-party meeting at his residence on Monday, 22 August at 11 am, to deliberate on the issue.

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J&K Peoples Conference's Sajad Lone 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."

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Addressing a press conference on the issue, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti remarked, "Inclusion of 25 lakh voters is the last nail in the coffin of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority area, joined the Indian Union to rid themselves of the rule of Rajas and Maharajas. But our trust has been betrayed. In 2002, Atal Bihari Vajpayee promised free and fair elections. A popular government was formed. But now Jammu and Kashmir has become a laboratory for BJP. They try something here and then replicate it across India."

Mufti added, "BJP wants to rig the election and get a fascist person elected in Jammu and Kashmir. They want to carry out demographic changes in Jammu and Kashmir. This is not just an issue for Muslims but also for Dogras and Kashmiri Pandits."

She also appealed to other parties to come together to resist the latest move regarding electoral rolls, and said, "I have requested Farooq Abdullah sahab to take a lead as the seniormost leader in Kashmir."

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Details of the Controversial Exercise

Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar described the ongoing exercise to complete the special summary revision of electoral rolls by 25 November as a "challenging task."

The massive exercise is going on to ensure that all the eligible voters, including those who will attain the age of 18 years on 1 October 2022 or earlier are enrolled to provide an "error-free" final list, the chief electoral officer told reporters here.

According to the rescheduled timeline issued by the election commission recently, an integrated draft electoral roll will be published on 15 September, while the period for filing claims and objections was set between 15 September and 25 October and their disposal by 10 November.

Checking of health parameters and obtaining the commission's permission for final publication and updating database and printing of supplements was fixed for 19 November before the publication of final electoral rolls on 25 November.

"The special summary revision of electoral rolls is taking place for the first time after January 1, 2019 and so we are expecting massive changes in the voter list given the fact that a large number of youngsters have attained the age of 18 or 18 plus over the past three years.

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"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 and in addition anyone who is living ordinarily can also avail the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in J&K in accordance with the provisions of representation of the Peoples Act," Kumar said.

He said the projected 18-plus population of J&K is around 98 lakhs, while the number of enlisted voters are 76 lakh, according to the last voter list.

"We are expecting an addition of 20 to 25 lakh new voters in the final list," Kumar said, adding officials have been sensitised to ensure the final list is "error-free."

Kumar said there is no need for a person to have a domicile certificate of J&K 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 about the claim." He said like in the past, J&K residents working in security forces and posted outside the Union Territory can register as service voters and avail the facility of postal ballot.

"Likewise, those from different parts of the country who are posted here have the option that if they are posted in a peace station they can enlist themselves as voters. Jammu is a peace station and anyone from outside posted in armed forces in the city can avail the option to enlist as a voter," he said.

He said after the delimitation exercise the number of Assembly seats increased to 90.

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"All the 90 constituencies have witnessed some sort of change... We are undertaking mapping of old constituencies with new constituencies and it will be followed by the special summary revision (SSR)," Kumar said, expressing satisfaction over the ongoing pre-SSR activities.

He said 600 polling stations have been added and now their total number across Jammu and Kashmir has gone up to 11,370.

The chief electoral officer said provision has been made in the modified registration forms for linking of Aadhaar number with electoral roll data.

He said the commission will issue voter cards with new security features.

About Kashmiri migrants outside the Valley, he said there is already a special provision for such displaced populations to enable them to exercise their franchise.

"They (Kashmiri Pandit migrants) are registered as voters in their home constituencies. Special camps are being organised for them at different places, including Delhi, Jammu and Udhampur for registration of new voters and all of them will be given the voter ID cards," he said.

He dismissed suggestions that Rohingya Muslims, who have taken shelter in Jammu and other parts, can get themselves registered as voters. "We have officers in place and they know their duty," he said.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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