Apni Party sees bid to vitiate J&K atmosphere in ‘outsiders in electoral roll’ row

Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari on Saturday described the controversy on voting rights to outsiders as an attempt to vitiate the atmosphere in Jammu and Kashmir and claimed that his party had compelled the Centre to assure that the new voters on the list were youths who have recently turned 18.

A party statement quoted him as telling a huge gathering at the inauguration of the party’s election office at Jammu’s Janipura area, “A government officer irresponsibly issued a statement in a press conference that 25 lakh new voters from outside Jammu and Kashmir would be eligible to participate in the upcoming Assembly elections and it sparked massive outrage in Kashmir as well as in Jammu.”

“The matter was very serious as it was against the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Bukhari said, adding the Apni Party immediately condemned it. “Our appeal forced the government of India to issue a clarification to end the speculations and rumour-mongering,” he said.

Bukhari lauded the “immediate response of” the central government, thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for issuing “prompt clarification that no voter from outside Jammu and Kashmir has been included in the electoral list, but the youth of Jammu & Kashmir who had attained the age of 18 years were added in the electoral rolls”.

“How can outsiders vote in the Assembly polls of Jammu & Kashmir when it is not in the constitution of the country?” he said, adding that his party had appealed to the prime minister and Union home minister.

Bukhari also criticised other political parties asking what they had achieved by participating in all-party meetings even when Articles 370 and 35A were in place. “Despite that you lost everything,” he was quoted as saying by the statement. However, the Apni Party forced the government to ensure job reservation and land for local residents, which was also protected under Articles 370 and 35A, he claimed.

Bukhari appreciated the people of Jammu for accommodating displaced people including Hindus and Muslims from Kashmir who came there during the turmoil. He also criticised the BJP for downgrading the erstwhile state to a Union Territory.

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