Amid a raging controversy over proposed inclusion of 2.5 million voters, including non-locals, allegedly to propel the fortunes of the BJP at the J&K assembly polls, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on Saturday constituted a 14-member panel to chalk out a future strategy to tackle any attempt made to “manipulate and include 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 (DSSP) and the Dogra Sadar Sabha (DSS).
PAGD spokesperson and CPI (M) leader MY Tarigami announced the formation of the committee on Saturday, nearly a month after arriving at a consensus on the issue at a meeting chaired by former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah at his Bhatindi residence here on September 10.
Tarigami said, “National Conference (NC) MP Hasnain Masoodi will be the panel’s convener. The other members include working president of J&K Congress Raman Bhalla, former MP Sheikh Abdul Rehman, NC’s Jammu province president Rattan Lal Gupta, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leaders Mehboob Beg and Amreek Singh Reen, former minister and DSS president Chowdhary Lal Singh and former minister and DSS president Gulchain Singh Charak.”
He further said, “Shiv Sena’s J&K unit chief Manish Sawhney, CPI(M) leader Hari Singh, CPI leader GM Mizrab, ANC president Muzaffar Ahmad Shah, International Democratic Party president ID Khajuria and Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement leader M Hussain are the other members of the committee.”
The PAGD is campaigning for the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Tarigami said the committee was formed after deliberations and consultations, in accordance with a decision made at a meeting of senior leaders of various political parties under Farooq Abdullah’s chairmanship in Jammu on September 10, to set up a panel to chalk out the future strategy on the issue of any attempt at manipulating and including non-locals in the revised electoral rolls.
The PAGD had previously held a meeting in Srinagar on August 22.
The issue soon snowballed into a controversy when the then chief electoral officer Hirdesh Kumar Singh had said in August that Jammu and Kashmir is likely to get around 25 lakh additional voters, including outsiders, after the special summary revision of the electoral rolls being held for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370.
Following an outcry, the administration clarified that “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 of October 1, 2022, or earlier”.
Farooq Abdullah had said, “All political parties have unanimously decided that they won’t tolerate giving voting rights to non-locals in Jammu and Kashmir. We are not going to accept this (inclusion of non-locals in voters list). Locals have the right and not the outsiders.”
He had further said, “We also decided that a committee will be formed to chalk out further course of strategy about how to take this to a logical conclusion.”
On September 6, Hirdesh Kumar Singh had convened an all-party meet at his office over special summary revision of electoral rolls and had tried to allay the fears of the opposition.