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Kashmir: Resentment in Parties as EC Defers Publication of Electoral Rolls

Anees Zargar |
J&K is without an Assembly since 2018; regional parties have accused the Centre of deliberately delaying the electoral process.
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File Photo.

Srinagar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has rolled out fresh dates for the final publication of electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir prompting criticism from the regional parties that the Central government is deliberately delaying the electoral process in the region.

According to a notification from the ECI dated August 8, 2022, a fresh deadline for publication of the final electoral roll on November 25 has been set up after due disposal of all claims and objections filed within the stipulated time period will be considered. Earlier, it was announced that the ECI would publish the final electoral rolls by October 31.

All youth who will reach the age of 18 years by October 1 will be eligible to become voters in the newly formed Union territory.

Following the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and subsequent bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories (UT), a Delimitation Commission was set up under the J&K Reorganisation Act despite opposition from the regional political parties, who termed the entire process “illegal”. The panel, however, after two years of deliberation, finally recommended the creation of six additional Assembly constituencies in the Jammu region and one in the Kashmir valley, which was also opposed by the regional stakeholders.

The regional political parties have since been critical of how the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) -led Central government is handling the UT.

The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference expressed “disappointment” over the further delay in Assembly elections in J&K, saying the decision will precipitate the suffering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

"The decision is bereft of any logic. Delay in the publication of the final electoral roll by a month obliquely means that elections are far away. The decision has come as a setback to the people particularly, who have been pushed to margins due to lingering bureaucratic rule,” party spokesperson Imran Nabi said. 

He said knowing that the BJP had diminished its credit with the common people of the region, the decision, however, did not come as a surprise. 

“They know that J&K is not a safe bet for them, which is why they prefer to drag their feet over assembly polls. People in Jammu are also berating the ruling party for their failure to live up to their promises. Delaying the elections clearly bespeaks a damaging new low, which the ruling dispensation is going through,” he added.

The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has been without an Assembly since November 2018 after its legislative Assembly was dissolved by then Governor Satya Pal Malik. Governor’s rule was imposed in the state in June 2018 after the BJP pulled out of the People’s Democratic Party-BJP coalition government, triggering a long political stalemate in the restive region.

Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami , leader of  the Communist Party of India (Marxist),  believes that deferring of the publication of electoral rolls reflects the government's intentions of not holding the elections, something that prevents the people from having an elected government. Tarigami, also the spokesperson for the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), said the BJP-led Central government has come up with excuses for “deliberately” delaying the democratic process.

“The purpose is to deny the people of Jammu and Kashmir even the basic constitutional rights. The bureaucratic system in place has led to rampant corruption and vested interests are playing foul. The local administration and bureaucratic rule are denying basic amenities to people,” Tarigami told NewsClick.

He, however, added that the Assembly elections in the Union territories will not mark a shift but it will undoubtedly open a few doors of opportunity for people who are awaiting relief.

Vice president of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC) Abdul Gani Vakil released a statement saying that with the delay in the process, it is apparent that the government of India is not interested in holding elections this year.

“They don’t want to pursue the democratic process and in fact are meting out punishment for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We have been saying that UT administration has failed on every front, which is evident from the misappropriation of Rs 10,000 crore funds, as observed in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report,” the former minister said in a statement.

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