Jammu and Kashmir is likely to get around 25 lakh additional voters including outsiders after the special summary revision of electoral rolls being held for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370, an official said on Wednesday.
The announcement by the Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar drew an angry reaction from former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti who attacked the Centre, saying this will not help the Bharatiya Janata Party when the people of J&K are given a chance to exercise their franchise.
Kumar described the ongoing exercise to complete the special summary revision of electoral rolls by November 25 as a 'challenging task'.
The massive exercise is going on to ensure that all the eligible voters including those who will attain the age of 18 years on October 1, 2022 or earlier are enrolled to provide an 'error-free' final list, the chief electoral officer told reporters in Jammu.
According to the rescheduled timeline issued by the election commission recently, an integrated draft electoral roll will be published on September 15, while the period for filing claims and objections was set between September 15 to October 25 and their disposal by November 10.
Checking of health parameters and obtaining the commission's permission for final publication and updating database and printing of supplements was fixed for November 19 before the publication of final electoral rolls on November 25.
"The special summary revision of electoral rolls is taking place for the first time after January 1, 2019 and so we are expecting massive changes in the voter list given the fact that a large number of youngsters have attained the age of 18 or 18 plus over the past three years.
"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," Kumar said.
He said the projected 18-plus population of J-K are is around 98 lakh, while the number of enlisted voters are 76 lakh according to the last voter list.
"We are expecting an addition of 20 to 25 lakh new voters in the final list," Kumar said, adding officials have been sensitised to ensure the final list is 'error-free'.
Kumar said there is 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 government officials concerned who will take a decision after being satisfied about the claim."
He said like in the past, J-K residents working in security forces and posted outside the Union Territory can register as service voters and avail the facility of postal ballot.
"Likewise, those from different parts of the country who are posted here have the option that if they are posted in a peace station they can enlist themselves as voters. Jammu is a peace station and anyone from outside posted in armed forces in the city can avail the option to enlist as a voter," he said.
He said after the delimitation exercise the number of assembly seats increased to 90.
"All the 90 constituencies have witnessed some sort of change... We are undertaking mapping of old constituencies with new constituencies and it will be followed by the special summary revision (SSR)," Kumar said, expressing satisfaction over the ongoing pre-SSR activities.
He said 600 polling stations have been added and now their total number across Jammu and Kashmir has gone up to 11,370.
The chief electoral officer said provision has been made in the modified registration forms for linking of Aadhaar number with electoral roll data.
He said the commission will issue voter cards with new security features.
About Kashmiri migrants outside the valley, he said there is already a special provision for such displaced populations to enable them to exercise their franchise.
"They (Kashmiri Pandit migrants) are registered as voters in their home constituencies. Special camps are being organised for them at different places including Delhi, Jammu and Udhampur for registration of new voters and all of them will be given the voter ID cards," he said.
He dismissed suggestions that Rohingya Muslims, who have taken shelter in Jammu and other parts, can get themselves registered as voters.
"We have officers in place and they know their duty".
Reacting to the statement of the chief electoral officer, 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,' Omar tweeted.
Mufti tweeted, 'GOIs (Government of India's) decision to defer polls in J-K preceded by egregious gerrymandering tilting the balance in BJPs favour & 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.'
J-K Peoples Conference's Sajad Lone said, 'This is dangerous. I don't know what they want to achieve. This is much more than a mischief. Democracy is a relic especially in the context of Kashmir. Please remember 1987. We r yet to come out of that. Don't replay 1987. It will be as disastrous.'