Political Parties Raise Objections After Meeting With Election Commission
Election Commission. Image Courtesy: NDTV
Srinagar: Mainstream political parties continued their protest against the decision by the Election Commission to allow non-locals in Jammu and Kashmir to register as voters after the chief election commissioner held an all-party meet in Jammu on Monday.
The political leadership, including from the National Conference (NC) and People's Democratic Party (PDP), said that they were not happy despite the chief election officer (CEO) Hirdesh Kumar Singh's clarification on the move that would allegedly add 25 lakh new voters.
The election commission drew massive flak after its earlier announcement in August that people who lived "ordinarily" in the region would be allowed to vote in the next assembly elections with or without acquiring domicile status. Prior to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, the right to vote was reserved for permanent residents or state subjects only.
Monday's meet was attended by representatives from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress, BSP, Peoples Conference (PC), Apni Party, JK National Panthers Party and Ikkjutt Jammu Party.
During the meeting, the CEO attempted to address the controversy by stating that the final list of voters would be only known after the final electoral roll was published on November 25. Even as the members said that the CEO claimed that a majority of the voters would be locals who have attained the adult franchise, the political leadership remained dissatisfied with the clarification.
Secretary Jammu regional committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Hari Singh, who attended the meeting with another colleague Muzafar Ahmad Wani said that there were objections raised as soon as the meeting started. "J&K CEO clarified that he hasn't mentioned the addition of 25 lakh voters in the list, and this is completely incorrect," the leader said.
Another leader from the Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Party (DSSP) said that there is confusion in the commission regarding the criteria for eligibility to register as voters.
"It is unfortunate that some people are inviting people across the country to vote here. As far as DSSP is concerned, we have expressed opposition to the announcement that there should be an eligibility to register as voters and not that people board trains to come and vote here tomorrow," the leader said.
The DSSP has been demanding a separate state for Jammu with article 371 as constitutional guarantees as a solution to end the "suffering" of the Jammu people.
“We are happy that Ladakh has been given though late, it's long-pending, but Jammu has been put into darkness after the abrogation of 370," party founder and former MP Choudhary Lal Singh said in a statement issued last week.
A National Conference leader, however, said that he is satisfied with the clarification from the CEO, who said that the 25 lakh figure "doesn't exist". "There is some confusion regarding the temporary voters, which the official said will be clarified soon," he said.
The political parties have expressed concern over the electoral process being carried out, which has delayed elections in the region. The party leaders are calling it a "gerrymandering" act aimed to tilt the balance in favour of the BJP as the decision to allow non-locals to vote is seen as an attempt to disempower the local population, especially the Muslim majority in Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, PDP president Mehbooba tweeted that there are attempts being made to enrol non-local labourers and army and paramilitary personnel as voters, which the UT administration should clarify.
“According to reports, verbal orders were passed at an administrative meeting in Baramulla yesterday by the district Tehsildar to enrol non-local labourers, CISF, CRPF, BSF and army personnel as voters. Administration must come clean on this,” the former chief minister tweeted.
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