Many a questions rises over the inclusion of non locals who are likely to exercise their right of vote in J&K where as resentment brews among regional political parties of Jammu and Kashmir who have hit out at BJP followed by the order issued by the Chief Election Commission of India that non-locals residing here can exercise their franchise of casting vote after deleting their names from the voter lists of their native places and register themselves for the same in Jammu and Kashmir whose number can increase to 25 lakhs, sources said here today.
According to a statement issued by CEO Jammu and Kashmir, Hirdesh Kumar that any person who fulfils the requirements of registration and is ordinarily residing in Jammu and Kashmir owing to reasons such as profession, studies, posting etc can get registered in the Electoral Rolls of the UT provided that he gets his name deleted from voter list of his native constituency as registration at two places is not permitted under Law.
It is pertinent to mention here that on the recommendations of Delimitation Commission the number of Assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir has been increased to 90 and after abrogation of Article 370 and 35A registration of new voters who have attained qualifying age to vote has increased many fold. Therefore inclusion of non -locals in voting lists will further increase the number of voters in Jammu and Kashmir.
Notwithstanding in favour of the decision of ECI, many regional political parties of Jammu and Kashmir have expressed resentment ,anguish and lambasted at BJP for its efforts to change the demography of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The top Kashmiri political leaders said that allowing non-locals to vote in the upcoming elections in J&K will be disastrous and will tilt the balance in favour of the BJP.
They blamed Bharatiya Janata Party for importing 25 lakh voters to help them to win elections in the Jammu and Kashmir. Former chief minister and vice president National Conference, Omar Abdullah alleged that BJP despite its provocative and hate speeches, has still felt insecure to such an extent that it now began to import non local voters to help them in the ensuing elections to win in Jammu and Kashmir.
Taking a dig at central government former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party chief, Mehbooba Mufti said that by doing so the central government and BJP have put together the last nail in the coffin of democracy. The peoples Conference president Sajad Ghani Lone has expressed resentment over the development which amounts to betrayal with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This exercise is going to repeat of 1987 poll rigging, Sajad added.
Reliable sources said that even prior to abrogation of Article 370, the people were eligible to get registered in the Electoral Rolls, if they were ordinarily residing in any of Assembly segments of Jammu and Kashmir, but then they had the right to vote only in Parliament elections and not Assembly polls. They were categorized as NPR voters. During last Parliamentary polls in 2019, there were approximately 32,000 NPR voters and there are multiple statutory safeguards existing in the present system against inclusion of an in-eligible person in the Electoral Roll.Though the resentment is brewing among the political parties against the order but Election Commission officials said that there was nothing new in non-locals voting in Jammu and Kashmir as Representation of People’s Act
1950 and 1951 has been implemented in the Union Territory replacing Jammu and Kashmir Representation of People’s Act.1957 following abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India on August 5, 2019.”Even before abrogation of Article 370, the Non Permanent Resident (NPR) voters were eligible to cast votes in Parliament. Elections in Jammu and Kashmir but not in the Legislative Assembly”,they added. According to census report of 2021 the number of new eligible voters including those who attained qualifying age for voting in Jammu and Kashmir has reached to 94 lakh,sources said, adding the number of voters has increased to 6.5 lakhs during the period 2014-19 besides the number of registered voters after carving out of Ladakh union territory from Jammu and Kashmir remains at 76.7 lakh.
While addressing media persons, CEO Hirdesh Kumar said that there is no need of producing domicile certificate for casting vote for non locals but to accept or reject the claims of applicants depends upon the thorough verification of documents and their residing places after scrutiny procedure and cut off on qualifying age will be thereby released on October 1,2022,he added.
Our analysts opine that the latest developments that are taking place in Jammu and Kashmir may lead J&K to some confrontations because the political parties of the UT have expressed grave resentment and concern over the order of Election Commission of India and in the heart of hearts they hold responsible BJP for all the happenings, while on the other hand government at centre seems all set to get the things done at any cost. Yet which way the wind blows is worth to be watched in times to come.