J&K: Non-locals get voting rights, Opposition parties protest decision
The election authority has made a significant yet contentious decision in Jammu and Kashmir by granting non-locals voting rights. On Wednesday, J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Hirdesh Kumar announced non-locals "ordinarily residing" in the union territory for various reasons can register as voters and vote in upcoming elections. However, Opposition parties have reacted angrily and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of importing voters.
- The decision to update the electoral roll comes a few months after the completion of the delimitation process in J&K.
- The union territory has had no elected government since June 2018, and the last delimitation exercise was conducted in 1995.
- As per officials, nearly 25 lakh new voters would be added in wake of the delimitation process and new rules.
According to CEO Kumar, outsiders will not require a domicile certificate to register as voters. He stated that armed forces personnel from other states stationed in J&K can also vote under the new rule. Notably, around 25 lakh new voters are expected to be enrolled in the union territory in the first special summary revision since the repeal of Article 370 in 2019.
Terming the ongoing exercise a challenging task, Kumar said the electoral rolls would be updated by November 25. "The massive exercise to complete the process in time is going on to ensure that all the eligible voters, including those who have attained the age of 18 years on October 1, 2022, or earlier, are enrolled to provide an error-free final list," he said.
Moreover, the voter IDs will be linked to Aadhaar, and new cards will reportedly be issued with many more security features. However, furnishing an Aadhaar number is purely voluntary, as per reports.
Former J&K CM and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah accused the BJP of seeking a backdoor entry into J&K. "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," he tweeted.
People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti claimed the real purpose of the movie is to favor the BJP. "GOIs decision to defer polls in J&K preceded by egregious gerrymandering tilting the balance in BJPs favor... now allowing non-locals to vote is obviously to influence election results. Real aim is to continue ruling J&K with an iron fist to disempower locals (sic)," she tweeted.
Meanwhile, Sajad Lone, the president of the J&K People's Conference, cautioned that the move would be a repetition of 1987, alluding to the alleged election rigging that triggered the insurgency a year later. "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," he stated.