Jammu and Kashmir is likely to have 25 lakh new voters in the next election, with non-locals registering to vote for the first time in the region. Former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have sharply criticized the move, calling it a “dangerous attempt” to influence elections. Jammu and Kashmir has been without an elected government for more than four years. State Assembly elections are expected in March 2023.
A special revision of the electoral rolls will allow non-locals to register as voters in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time since the Centre scrapped its special status under Article 370 in 2019, amending the Constitution to allow non-Kashmiris to vote and own land there.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar told reporters that more than 20 lakh new voters are expected to be enrolled in the region ahead of polls. This could increase the voter count by more than a third, adding to the existing 76 lakh voters in the region. “After abrogation of Article 370, those who couldn’t vote earlier can now register as voters. We are expecting an addition of (20-25 lakh) new voters in the final list. This will include non-Kashmiris now settled in the Valley,” stated Kumar, adding that it is similar to the practice in all states across India. “Anyone living or working in Jammu and Kashmir can vote there,” he added.
The main political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have raised strong objections to the move. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the decision was driven by the BJP’s “insecurity” about support in the region. “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,” wrote the former Chief Minister.
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Former CM and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti said the BJP was focused on influencing election results. “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,” she tweeted.
Addressing the media later, she referenced Nazi Germany and Palestine while criticizing the BJP’s policies in Jammu and Kashmir.