Srinagar/Jammu: The National Conference, PDP, Congress and other prominent political parties on Wednesday flayed the Jammu administration’s order on facilitating the registration of new voters who are from outside in Jammu and Kashmir, while the BJP defended it saying it is in line with the laws.
They were reacting after the Jammu administration authorised tehsildars (revenue officials) to issue a certificate of residence to those residing in the winter capital for more than a year to enable their registration as voters.
While Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti alleged that the Centre’s “colonial settler project” has been initiated in the region, the National Conference urged people of J-K to “defeat these conspiracies at the ballot box”.
Former Congress leader and Democratic Azad Party chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad said the order would increase social tensions in J-K, while the Peoples Conference termed the Jammu’s DC order “highly suspicious”.
“The ECI’s latest order for registration of new voters makes it clear that GOIs colonial settler project has been initiated in Jammu. They will bear the first blow to Dogra culture, identity, employment & business,” Mufti tweeted.
Talking to reporters in Kulgam district in south Kashmir, Mufti said her party has been saying that the BJP has an “illegitimate intent” behind the abrogation of Article 370.
“Their aim is to change the population ratio in J-K. It will start in Jammu when a sea of people will come from outside, which will not only harm the Dogra culture there but the business, employment and resources there will be attacked. The crime rate there has increased manifold since they opened the doors for the outsiders,” she alleged.
The National Conference (NC) claimed the BJP is “scared” of the elections and knows it will lose badly.
“The Government is going ahead with its plan to add 25 lakh non-local voters in J&K and we continue to oppose this move. BJP is scared of the elections & knows it will lose badly. People of J&K must defeat these conspiracies at the ballot box,” the NC said in a tweet.
NC state spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said the fresh order was an extension of what the then Chief Electoral Officer Hridesh Kumar had said at his press conference in Jammu.
The party had opposed it then and continues to oppose it now, he said. ”
“The only antidote that will defeat all these controversies is that the people of Jammu and Kashmir that includes Dogra Muslims, Kashmiris, Gujjars, Paharis and other sections, they need to register themselves as voters and when the election comes, they should come out and vote in large numbers. That is the only way we can defeat their nefarious designs,” Dar said.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), headed by National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, had on Saturday announced the formation of a 14-member committee to chalk out a strategy on the issue of any attempt of “manipulation and inclusion” of non-locals in the revised electoral rolls.
The panel has members from the five PAGD constituents and several other political parties such as the Congress, the Shiv Sena, the Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Party (DSSP) and the Dogra Sadar Sabha (DSS).
The Peoples Conference said in a statement that the Jammu DC order “reinforces the apprehensions in the minds of locals that outsiders are being enabled to register as voters to change the demographic profile of J-K”.
It urged the Election Commission of India as well as the J-K administration to come clean on the matter.
“We will always oppose making a non-resident a voter because Article 370 biggest benefit was that outsiders will not become voters here. This is not right, not right for the state and it will increase social tension,” Azad told reporters.
The Special Summary Revision of electoral rolls was started in the Union Territory on September 15 for the registration of new voters, deletion, correction, and transposition of voters who have migrated or died since the last summary revision.
“The cat is out of the bag finally and we will not allow this (giving voting rights to non-locals) to happen. We are against such a move because it is a conspiracy hatched by BJP to divest locals of their rights and control power with the support of outsiders,” J- K Pradesh Congress Committee president Vikar Rasool Wani told reporters in Jammu.
The Congress leader also denounced the recent government order allowing departmental stores to sell beer and Ready-to-Use drinks and said “such an order should be immediately revoked to honour the religious sentiments of the people.”
J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina, however, said the guidelines are in accordance with the Representation of the People Act.
“There is nothing wrong in people from outside J&K getting enrolled as voters in the Union Territory, a right which is given to them by the Constitution. After the abrogation of Article 370 (in August 2019), the Act came into force in J-K as well,” he said.
He accused opposition parties including the National Conference, Congress and PDP of unleashing propaganda under a “conspiracy” to mislead the people.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former minister Harsh Dev Singh, however, accused the BJP of misrepresenting and misinterpreting the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA) to justify the inclusion of non-local voters.
He said that nowhere does the RPA state that the voter of one State/UT can get himself registered as a voter in some other State/UT for elections to the legislative assembly of that State/UT.
“In the absence of an express provision in RPA to the effect, the existing law is being misinterpreted by the vested interests to sub-serve their political motives,” he alleged.
Singh said uniform yardsticks cannot be applied for Parliamentary and Assembly elections. “What right do the outsiders have to decide as to who should represent J&K as its MLAs or ministers,” Singh questioned.
“We welcome giving voting rights to Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Balmiki and Gorkha community, but the decision to give voting rights to non-locals camping in Jammu and Kashmir for just one year cannot be tolerated,” Shiv Sena leader Manish Sahni said.
He warned that all the opposition parties are united over this issue and a “mass movement” will be launched against any such attempt.