Outsiders living ordinarily in J&K can enlist as voters for Assembly polls: J&K Chief Electoral Officer 

J&K parties have reacted sharply to Election Commission’s decision

Published - August 18, 2022 10:07 am IST - SRINAGAR

File photo for representation.

File photo for representation. | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

Anyone who is living ordinarily in J&K can now also avail of the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in the Union Territory (UT), in accordance with the provisions of Representation of the Peoples Act, Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar said on Wednesday in Jammu. Meanwhile, J&K parties have opposed the move.

“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,” CEO Kumar said.

Mr. Kumar said there was 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 the government officials concerned who will take a decision after being satisfied about the claim,” the CEO said.

He said like in the past, many residents of J&K who are working in armed forces and paramilitary forces and are posted outside the Union Territory have an option to get themselves registered as service voters and can avail the facility of postal ballot to register their choice at the time of the elections.

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

J&K hosts a significant number of security personnel and migrant labourers. Several service sectors, which includes the hotel industry and manufacturing, are dominated by workforce from outside J&K. The majority of the highly-skilled labourers hired for bigger projects also come from outside the Valley.  

Mr. Kumar said around 25 lakh new voters are expected to be enrolled in J&K. “The projected population of J&K, who are 18-plus are around 98 lakh, while the number of enlisted voters is 76 lakh according to the last voter list,” he said.

According to the CEO, the final electoral roll would be published on November 25. Earlier, the Election Commission of India (ECI) was planning to finalise the roll by October. The fresh dates have made any announcement about elections in J&K unlikely this year.

J&K parties have reacted sharply to the decision to allow outsiders to enlist as voters in the UT.

“This is dangerous. I don’t know what they want to achieve. This is much more than 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,” Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone said.

Former Chief Minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said, “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.”

The People’s Democratic Party said this whole thing about people from outside J&K being allowed to vote here is an extension of the “tactical rigging process” that started with the unconstitutional and illegal delimitation process in J&K. “The sole aim of the Government of India is the complete disempowerment of the people of J&K,” PDP chief spokesman Syed Suhail Bukhari said.

Jammu-based Mission Statehood Jammu Kashmir (MSJK) president Sunil Dimple said the ECI decisions “on the direction of BJP is not acceptable”. “This is a big conspiracy to weaken our claim of restoration of J&K’s Statehood, Permanent Residence Certificate, special status, and Article 370. This will destroy our history, identity, culture and demography of the erstwhile princely state of J&K,” Mr. Dimple said.

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