The final electoral rolls of Jammu and Kashmir were published on Friday, with the addition of more than 11 lakh new voters – the highest ever, PTI reported, citing officials. Taking into account the names that were deleted from the voters’ list, the net increase of electors stood at 7,72,872, they said.
There are a total of 83,59,771 voters in the new electoral rolls of Jammu and Kashmir, joint chief electoral officer of the Union Territory Anil Salgotra told PTI.
The preparation of the electoral rolls is a step forward towards holding Assembly polls in the Union Territory – the first since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated in August 2019.
The erstwhile state had also been bifurcated into two Union Territories after the abrogation.
The revision of electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir holds significance as the exercise was carried out for the first time since the abrogation of its special status. Until August 2019, voting rights were restricted to those defined as permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
Leaders of Kashmiri political parties have expressed apprehensions that the revision of electoral rolls could be an attempt to alter the demographics of the Union Territory. Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has described the move as the first step towards the Centre’s “colonial settler project” in the region.
In February 2020, the Union government had started the delimitation process – or redrawing boundaries – of Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. On May 5, the number of Assembly seats was increased from 83 to 90 in the final delimitation order.
Of the seven new seats, one was given to Kashmir, taking its total to 46, and six were given to Jammu, which now has 43 seats.
While it is a routine effort in some parts of the country, the delimitation process is much more politically sensitive in Jammu and Kashmir because of fears that the Bharatiya Janata Party may use it to alter political outcomes in what was earlier India’s only Muslim-majority state.
In June, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said elections in Jammu and Kashmir could be held by the end of this year. However, it seems unlikely as the Election Commission has not issued any notification yet.