With the addition of the highest-ever 7.72 lakh voters in final electoral roll of Jammu and Kashmir, the special summary revision exercise seems to be a precursor for long-awaited elections in the country’s newest Union Territory, Jammu and Kashmir.
Following the development, the region’s grand old party, the National Conference has demanded that the Election Commission of India announce the long-awaited Assembly Elections in the UT.
The party has said that it is studying details of this new voter addition “constituency-wise”. It also stated with the announcement from ECI on voter addition, it hopes now the “confusion and resulting apprehensions about addition of 25 lakh new voters”, which emanated from then J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer Hridesh Kumar’s presser in August, will end.
What was the controversy in J&K about addition of new voters?
In August 17 this year, J&K’s Chief Election Officer Hridesh Kumar announced that anyone “who is living ordinarily in J&K” can avail the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in the UT in accordance with the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.
Following abrogation of Article 370 which limited voting franchise to certain sections of the Kashmiri population, Kumar had said that those who were not enlisted as voters in the erstwhile J&K state are now eligible to vote.
He had said that ECI is expecting an addition of 20-25 lakh new voters in the final electoral roll of J&K.
Kumar had also said security forces posted in J&K could also register as voters and could possibly participate in the first-ever Assembly polls in the newly formed UT.
How had J&K political parties reacted to the announcement then?
The announcement led to political backlash in J&K, with political parties except for BJP including the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, CPI(M) and Peoples Conference, expressing concerns that the move will open the floodgates of migrant influx into the demographically sensitive state and “turn locals into an electoral minority”.
J&K’s former CM Mehbooba Mufti expressed concern about the proposed addition, insinuating that the "plan" to make 25 lakh non-locals eligible to vote in the UT’s Assembly elections was an attack on democracy.
“This is the last nail in the coffin of electoral democracy,” Mufti had said in reaction to Kumar’s announcement
Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone after the announcement had compared the move with the 1987 rigged elections in J&K, which resulted in militancy in Kashmir in the 1990s.
“Please remember 1987. We are yet to come out of that. Don’t re-play 1987. It will be disastrous,” Lone had said.
"The Government is going ahead with its plan to add 25 lakh non-local voters in J&K and we continue to oppose this move. BJP is scared of the elections & knows it will lose badly. People of J&K must defeat these conspiracies at the ballot box," former CM Farooq Abdullah had said.
Why were electoral rolls revised in J&K?
The Delimitation Commission has re-drawn many constituencies in J&K. The electoral rolls were revised following the delimitation exercise carried out across J&K this year, which resulted in the addition of seven new Assembly constituencies in the UT. Six of these constituencies were added to the Jammu division and one to Kashmir division, under the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019.
Following the additions, Kashmir region now has 47 Assembly seats while Jammu now has 43 Assembly seats.
How were electoral rolls revised before Article 370 abrogation in J&K?
Before Article 370, when J&K’s Assembly electoral rolls in the erstwhile state were drawn up according to the J&K Representation of the People Act 1957, wherein only permanent residents of J&K were eligible to get registered in the Assembly rolls.
What is the final electoral roll of J&K now?
After the ECI’s announcement, the final electoral roll of the UT is at 83,59,771 voters, out of which—42,91,687 are males and 40,67,900 are females, while 184 voters are placed under third gender category.
When were Assembly elections held in J&K last time?
The addition of new voters in J&K has made Assembly elections imperative in J&K, where such exercise was carried out in 2014.