The National Conference will hold an “all-party meeting” here on Monday to discuss the issue of “inclusion of non-local voters” in the revised electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir. Parties like the NC and PDP claimed the administration has not addressed their main concern on whether ”outsiders” ordinarily residing in J-K will be allowed to enroll as voters and the meeting will discuss the clarification issued by the administration on the matter. So the meeting will discuss everything threadbare. Even the clarification will be discussed. It is an all-party meeting and every party will present their point of view, PDP chief spokesperson Suhail Bukhari had said. NC president Farooq Abdullah had called the meeting to discuss the issue of the “inclusion of non-local voters” in the electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir after remarks related to the addition of voters in the revised rolls by the UT’s Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar raised hackles of the regional parties.
The government on Saturday issued a clarification, saying the reports of a likely addition of over 25 lakh voters after the summary revision of electoral rolls is a “misrepresentation of facts by vested interests”. The Kashmiri migrants “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,” it said.
“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. Mainstream political parties have alleged that the “inclusion of non-locals was a clear-cut ploy to disenfranchise the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
However, even after the clarification, the political parties will go ahead with the all-party meeting convened by the NC president at his residence. The clarification’ issued by DIPR is a silent endorsement of the statement given by the Chief Election Officer. Doesn’t address our apprehensions about non-locals en masse being given the power to vote. Yet another design to dispossess people of J&K, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
The National Conference also said the clarification does not address whether “outsiders” residing on J-K can vote or not. There is no clarity on the most important point of voting rights to outsiders ordinarily residing in J-K, National Conference (NC) state spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar told PTI. Dar said the government should make it clear what it means by ordinarily living persons.
The problem is that someone has come here and works as a labourer. There is no documentary proof like it is needed in other places that a person has lived for seven or eight years or so and then he becomes eligible to vote there. Any such person can come here for two months, deregister himself at his native place and register here to vote, and then return. So, if somebody comes here for two months, will he also be eligible for enrolling himself as a voter here, the NC state spokesperson said.
The clarification was issued through an advertisement in local dailies after a political backlash PDP chief spokesperson Suhail Bukhari said the all-party meeting will be held as scheduled and everything, even the clarification issued by the government, will be discussed. He said it was no less than the chief electoral officer who made the remarks on the inclusion of nonlocals.
The Congress party on Saturday said its representatives will also attend the meeting. AICC in-charge J-K, Rajani Patil, told reporters that the party opposes the inclusion of non-locals in the electoral rolls and was mulling taking a legal course as well against the government’s move.
While there was no reaction so far from the Peoples Conference led by Sajad Lone over the participation in the meeting or over the clarification, Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari seems to be satisfied with the government’s response.