Non-Local Voters: BJP, Opposition leaders spar at EC’s all-party meet

Non-Local Voters: BJP, Opposition leaders spar at EC’s all-party meet

Heated arguments between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition leaders over the inclusion of “non-locals” in the voter list were witnessed during an all-party meeting chaired by Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer Hirdesh Kumar here over the special summary revision (SSR) of electoral rolls.

Amidst raging controversy over the possible addition of 2.5 million new voters, Hirdesh Kumar Singh had invited all the major mainstream political parties to his office at 4 pm here.

At a recent press conference, the CEO announced October 1, 2022, as the cut-off date for anyone who is 18 or above and is ordinarily residing in Jammu and Kashmir for getting registered as a voter.

By and large, the opposition remained dissatisfied after the meeting.

After the meeting, Congress leader Yogesh Sawhney said, “The CEO first of all clarified on non-locals voters and assured us that no 2.5 million voters are likely to be added. He informed us that issue pertained to new voters, who attained 18 years of age on and after September 1, 2022. However, we told him that we won’t tolerate non-locals on the voters’ list and we stand by it. All the opposition parties flagged this issue before the CEO.”

Panthers Party senior leader PK Ganju said, “The CEO assured that only real residents of J&K shall be the voters and no non-local voters will be there.”

People’s Democratic Party general secretary Amreek Singh Reen said, “They will make the vote of non-local voters on Aadhar card and affidavit. We are not satisfied at all… our identity is being attacked”

Another PDP leader accused BJP of playing spoilsport in the meeting.

“They hijacked the meeting. There was no clarification on 2.5 million voters,” he said.

Ikkjutt Party president advocate Ankur Sharma had a different take.

“The meet concluded successfully. There were apprehensions among some of the parties regarding the Representation of People’s Act vis-à-vis ordinary residents but Section 20 with 16 of the act clear tells in detail who are they. The CEO informed the meeting about safeguards in place for the new voters,” Sharma said adding that the matter was sub-judice in the court and evidences are in the public domain.

“Article 370 abrogation increased Jammu’s voter base significantly through addition of West Pakistanis, Valimikis, Gurkhas and other Indians ordinarily resident in J&K. However, following Nehruvian policy of handing over power in J&K to Islamists of Kashmir, this government made this increase redundant by basing its delimitation exercise on fudged 2011 Census,” Sharma claimed.

PDP general secretary Amreek Singh Reen said, “If non-locals come and vote here then why we were shown green pastures post revocation of Article 370”.

National Conference’s provincial president RL Gupta said his party also expressed their apprehensions about SSR. “On the voting rights to paramilitary forces personnel posted in J&K, the CEO himself said that being a disturbed region how can they vote here and the provisions for the applied for peace stations only. The election authorities will be ready with their draft on the final voters’ list on September 15 and we will oppose it if there were any outsiders in it.”

Apni Party leader Manjit Singh also echoed similar views.

However, J&K BJP’s former president and ex-minister Sat Sharma said, “If our people from Jammu and Kashmir can vote in Delhi and they can contest anywhere in the country, aren’t those (non-locals) living here for livelihood and education authorized to vote. Article 370 has been revoked and all central laws are now applicable here”.

Sharma said that BJP was ready for polls and we wanted them to be held in a “good atmosphere”.

BJP’s spokesperson advocate Abhinav Sharma said, “There will be no addition of 25 lakh voters. However, revision is being done after nearly four years, so the addition of those above 18 years and some other eligible voters shall be made.”

On opposition’s allegations that inclusion of non-locals was being done to propel BJP’s prospects, he said, “I have nothing to do with NC, PDP, Congress and Apni Party. J&K Representation of People’s Act stands repealed with revocation of Article 370 and now centre’s Representation of People’s Act 1951 stands implemented. Therefore, its provisions shall be implemented by the authorities”.

He also rubbished their allegations that election authorities were influenced by the BJP.

“Such authorities are not under the control of any political party. They work as per the law, he said.

Following the invite, AAP activists led by former education minister Harsh Dev Singh and Taranjit Singh Tony staged a vociferous protest at the Nirvachan Bhawan.

“BJP doesn’t want assembly elections in J&K and they are being delayed and denied constantly… this is (all-party meet by the CEO) just a drama … a joke today,” Harsh Dev Singh said. The former minister alleged that such meetings were for “mere optics” and that no serious exercise has been initiated by the government to restore democracy in J&K.

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