Brief uproar inside, outside All Party Meet; CEO says issues already clarified

BJP for inclusion of WP refugees, Valmikis, Gorkhas as voters

*DCs to publish draft electoral rolls on Sept 15

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Sept 5: The BJP today called for inclusion of all West Pakistan refugees, Valmiki Samaj, Gorkhas and all those eligible in the voter lists being revised in Jammu and Kashmir by the Election Commission while majority of other political parties opposed inclusion of “outsiders”. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), however, claimed that it boycotted the meeting as the Election Commission has become “mouthpiece of the BJP”.
The meeting turned stormy for sometime after BSP leaders clashed with the BJP representatives charging latter with trying to dictate terms to the Chair while NC, PDP, Congress also created uproar over proposed inclusion of outsiders as electorates and the figure of 25 lakh new voters projected by the Election Commission. However, the CEO is reported to have stated that these issues have clearly been clarified.
While there was no official statement, the CEO reportedly assured the political parties that only those who fulfil conditions under the Representation of the People’s Act will be enrolled as voters. He is understood to have reiterated that he didn’t project the figure of 25 lakh new voters.
BJP leaders including Sat Sharma, Abhinav Sharma, Parduman Singh, Rajinder Sharma and Asif Masoodi represented the party at the meeting and demanded that all those eligible under the law should be incorporated as electorates in the voter lists.
“The voter lists haven’t been revised since January 1, 2019 i.e. around four years now. Large number of youth are awaiting inclusion in the lists. All those who are eligible for inclusion including West Pakistan refugees, Valmiki Samaj, Gorkha Samaj etc should be included in the voter lists,” BJP leader and former Minister Sat Sharma said.
Abhinav Sharma said they were told that the integrated draft electoral rolls will be published on September 15 and the Deputy Commissioners will provide lists to all political parties for objections which can be given up to October 25. Final electoral rolls will be published on November 25, he added.
Congress, National Conference and PDP wanted the CEO to set record straight on inclusion of outsiders in the voting lists and also the figure of 25 lakh proposed to be incorporated as voters. However, representatives of the political parties told the Excelsior that the CEO categorically stated that no figure has been projected and that enough clarifications have already been issued in this regard.
Congress leaders Yogesh Sawhney, former Minister and Shah Mohammad Advocate, who represented party in the CEO’s meeting declared that the Congress will not tolerate outsiders as voters in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We, however, made it clear that we have no objections to inclusion of West Pakistan refugees, Valmikis and Gorkhas as electorates in the Union Territory,” Sawhney said.
Ikk Jutt chairman Ankur Sharma strongly countered the Opposition parties like Cong, PDP and NC that non-local voters can’t be registered in J&K.
“The Election Commission shouldn’t gather an impression that non-locals can’t become voters in J&K. They can become voters as per the law,” Sharma said leading to heated discussion.
National Conference representatives Rattan Lal Gupta and Sheikh Bashir too raised objections over propose inclusion of outsiders and figure of 25 lakh new voters projected by the Election Commission.
Gupta said the CEO, however, told them that he never projected the figure of 25 lakh.
“As Jammu and Kashmir is a disturbed Union Territory, the security personnel shouldn’t be enrolled as voters. They should cast votes in their home States/Union Territories,” he added.
AAP leaders and workers including Harshdev Singh held massive protest outside venue of the meeting for delay in conduct of Assembly elections in J&K.
Asserting that they boycotted the meeting, Harshdev said the date for revision of electoral rolls was deliberately changed from October 30 to November 25 to delay the Assembly polls. “The meeting is total fraud. The BJP doesn’t want elections to be held in J&K. For four years, they are delaying the polls,” Harshdev said.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) delegation comprising Amrik Singh Reen, Sumesh Slathia, Rajinder Manhas and Parvez Wafa too raised the issue of outside voters and then figure of 25 lakh projected by the Commission.
They said after abrogation of Article 370, the Central Government promised moon to the people but was instead bent upon finishing identity of the erstwhile State.
BSP leaders including Som Nath Majotra, Shashi Thapa and Charanjit Chargotra wanted to know how suddenly the figure of 25 lakh new voters emerged.
Majotra said security forces should cast service votes in the elections of their States and not in Jammu and Kashmir where they are deployed.
Apni Party delegation comprising Manjit Singh, Nirmal Kotwal and Dr Rohit Gupta said the CEO clarified that only those who fulfill the formalities mentioned in Form No. 6 will be enrolled as electorates and none else.
Manjit Singh demanded creation of new Polling Stations so that voters don’t have to trek large distance to exercise their right to franchise.