Will not accept imported voters, will challenge EC’s electoral roll-revision move: J&K Parties

Will challenge non-locals in J&K poll rolls: Farooq Abdullah at all-party meet
  • Will not accept imported voters: PDP on electoral roll revision
  • BJP holds counter-meeting, slams parties

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah on Monday said the “inclusion of non-local voters” in the electoral rolls of Jammu and Kashmir was not acceptable to the parties here as it would “end J&K’s identity”.

Bid to rob J&K of its identity. It will end J&K’s identity… Assembly will be in hands of outsiders and people here will be left with nothing.

— Farooq Abdullah, NC chief

Abdullah, who had called an “all-party” meeting to discuss the issue, said the decision would be contested by all means, including by mounting a legal challenge to it.

The meeting, convened by Abdullah at his residence, was attended by PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, Congress’ J&K unit head Vikar Rasool, CPM leader MY Tarigami, Manish Sahni of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and Narinder Singh Khalsa of the SAD (Amritsar). However, AAP, Altaf Bukhari-led Apni Party and Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference stayed away. The parties decided to launch an agitation accusing the Centre of tampering with the demography of the UT.

Abdullah alleged, “The move will result in an increase in the number of non-local voters. This will dilute the identity of Dogras, Kashmiris and Paharis, among others. The assembly will be in the hands of the outsiders and the people here will be left with nothing.”

Abdullah had called the meeting after remarks related to the addition of voters in the revised rolls by UT’s Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar raised hackles of the regional parties even as the government later issued a clarification, saying the report of a likely addition of over 25 lakh voters after the revision of electoral rolls was a “misrepresentation of facts by vested interests”.

Sajad Lone said his party would wait till October when the draft electoral rolls would be published. He, however, warned against any change in the J&K’s demography.

Bukhari has already thanked the Centre for its clarification over the issue. Both Bukhari and Lone are considered close to the BJP.

Meanwhile, The Peoples Democratic Party Monday staged a protest against election authorities over the issue of “non-locals” being enlisted as electorate in Jammu and Kashmir, saying “imported voters” were not acceptable to parties.

Scores of PDP activists assembled at the party headquarters in Gandhi Nagar and took out a protest rally towards the office of Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar who had recently announced anyone living ordinarily in J&K can get enlisted in the union territory as a voter under during the special summary revision of the electoral roll.

However, they were stopped by police. “We will not accept imported voters, come what may. We will fight this grave injustice. This is a ‘goonda gardi’. It is not accepted to us,” PDP leader Raj Kumar told PTI.

Harmesh Singh Salathia, PDP additional general secretary, said giving voting rights to non-locals in J&K was unacceptable as it will simply disenfranchise the subjects of as any number of people from outside J&K can come and exercise their right to franchise . He said that it is sad that fearing imminent rout the BJP is trampling the very basis of democracy through misusing power.

The protesters raised slogans against the BJP, the CEO and election authorities, and carried placards against the announcement. A counter-protest was organised by the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal who members took out a rally in the city.

“First, they opposed the revocation of article 370 and claimed there will be demographic changes. No such thing happened since the abrogation. Then they said industrial policy will change demography. Nothing happened. Now they raising this issue.” said their chief Rakesh Kumar.

This comes on a day nine political parties met here on the issue, with Nation Conference president Farooq Abdullah saying any decision to include “non-locals” in electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir is unacceptable and will be contested by all means including in court.

Abdullah said they were united against the move to extend the voting right to “outsiders” as it would rob Jammu and Kashmir of its identity.

The government had Saturday issued a clarification on the CEO’s remarks, saying the reports of a likely addition of over 25 lakh voters after the summary revision of electoral rolls is a “misrepresentation of facts by vested interests” and the increase in numbers will be of voters who have attained the age of 18 years as of October 1, 2022, or earlier.

The BJP in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday slammed the NC, PDP and others for raking up the issue of “inclusion of non-local voters” in the revised electoral rolls in the Union Territory and alleged they were spreading propaganda to disturb the peace.

Addressing a press conference, BJP’s J&K unit president Ravinder Raina said there was no issue of “locals or non-locals” as the Constitution gives the right to every citizen to vote after attaining the age of 18.

“The Representative of the People Act was implemented across the country in 1950 and was extended to J&K after the abrogation of Article 370 (in August 2019). The revision of electoral rolls is taking place in accordance with the Act,” the BJP leader said.

He was speaking after chairing a meeting of senior BJP leaders at party headquarters here to chalk out a “counter-strategy” in the wake of the meeting convened by NC president Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar, where nine parties vowed to oppose by all means, including in court, any decision to include “non-locals” in electoral rolls.

The meeting was attended by the NC, Congress, PDP, Awami National Conference (ANC), Shiv Sena, CPI, CPI(M), JDU and the Akali Dal Mann. However, Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference and Altaf Bukhar’s Apni Party stayed away.

Raina said Congress president Sonia Gandhi is also answerable to the country after her party leaders took part in the meeting as the Act was implemented by the Congress in 1950.

“There is no justification for their misleading propaganda. When PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed can fight and win elections from Uttar Pradesh and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad is elected from Maharashtra, there was no uproar at that time.

“How can they oppose those who are living here for decades and were deprived of their rights during their rule over the past 70 years?” he said, adding the BJP will launch an awareness campaign on the issue.

Sayeed, who is the father of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, had won from Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha seat in UP in 1989. Azad became a member of Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra in 1984.

“Farooq Abdullah himself was a Union minister, a chief minister, and his name was recently proposed for the post of president by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee,” he said.

On allegations that it was an attempt by the BJP to increase its voters, Raina said his party does not need bogus voters as it will achieve its goal of over 50 assembly seats with the support of J&K residents who are satisfied with the functioning of the party.

Referring to West Pakistani refugees, Gorkhas and Valmikis who got voting rights in local elections after the abrogation of Article 370, he said they are getting the chance to register themselves as voters for the first time in 70 years because they were earlier denied the right by these parties.

He said Abdullah should stay away from such propaganda as he is a citizen of the country.

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