The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday said that media reports about the estimate of adding 25 lakh voters while revising the electoral roll in the Union Territory are a “misrepresentation of facts”. It clarified that the estimate also includes first-time voters.

This comes amid a controversy over the inclusion of a large number of new voters in the region. Regional political leaders have alleged that the electoral roll revision is part of a tactic by the Bharatiya Janata Party to influence election results.

“This revision of electoral rolls will cover existing residents of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the increase in numbers will be of the voters who have attained the age of 18 years as on 1.10.2022 or earlier,” the Directorate of Information and Public Relations said.

On Thursday, an unidentified government official had told The Indian Express that out of the figure of 25 lakh additional voters, at least 22 lakh are first-time voters.

The clarification by the administration also comes two days after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar had said that the Union Territory could get 25 lakh more voters, including those originally from outside Jammu and Kashmir, such as migrant workers and security forces, but living in the region.

Kumar had said that this was due to the revision of electoral rolls, which is being undertaken for the first time after Jammu and Kashmir lost its formal autonomy under Article 370.

The Centre scrapped statehood and special status under Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019. The former state was split into two Union Territories. The Centre also repealed Article 35A, which ensured special rights and privileges to people defined as “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, the region has been under central rule.

The chief electoral officer had also said that a domicile certificate was not necessary for enlisting as a voter in Jammu and Kashmir.

After the legislative changes of August 2019, the Centre had replaced the term “permanent residents” with “domiciles”, a broader bureaucratic category that included anyone who had lived in Jammu and Kashmir for a certain number of years. Ordinary residents is an even broader category of individuals.

Kumar’s remark had invited sharp criticism from political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.

Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti had said that the move was the “last nail in the coffin of electoral democracy” in the Union Territory and that the BJP was trying to change the demography of the region by bringing 25 lakh additional voters through a “backdoor”, the Hindustan Times reported.

However, on Saturday, the administration alleged that the controversy was due to the misrepresentation of facts which were being spread by those having “vested interests”.

“Summary revision of electoral rolls are undertaken by the Election Commission from time to time according to laid down process,” the department said. “This is to enable young persons who become eligible to register themselves as voters. Besides it also allows a person who has changed his ordinary place of residence to enrol at new location by getting himself deleted at the old location.”

It further added that the number of electors as published in the special summary revision of Jammu and Kashmir in 2011 was 66,00,921, which has now gone up to 76,02,397.

“This increase is mainly due to the new voters, who attained the age of 18 years,” it said.