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Between 6% and 34%, here is how voter count has increased election after election

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Jammu: As Chief Election Officer Hridesh Kumar’s statement of ‘voter count set to go up by 2.5 million with enrolment being open to ordinarily residents’ triggers controversy, the Jammu and Kashmir government has come up with clarification by putting up newspaper advertisements.

The Government, through display advertisements on front pages of dozens of newspapers, offered clarification in five points which are summerised below:

1: Summary revision of electoral rolls is a routine periodic exercise

2: Electors grew by a million since 2011 with younger people attaining age of 18.

3: Media reports of rise in electors by 2.5 million is misrepresentation of facts at behest of vested interests.

4: There is no change in special provision for Kashmiri Pandits enabling them to vote through postal ballots

5: There is no change in rules governing purchase of properties and obtaining jobs, and such no connection with electoral rolls.

Even as the government has said that media reports are misrepresentation of facts and being spread by vested interests, the original fact remains that 25 lakh estimate figure was used first time ever by CEO Hridesh Kumar Singh and all reportage has been based entirely on his statement. Whether electors could rise by 25 lakhs is a matter of speculation left to roll revision process, but this figure was never in public domain before Mr Singh’s statement at his press conference.

Mr Singh was approached by several media persons, but he never responded to subsequent questions. The Dispatch also tried to reach him, but he didn’t respond. Five written questions were then sent to him through WhatsApp and SMS but there was no response.

In the newspaper advertisements, the government has said that electors in Jammu and Kashmir were counted at 66,00,921 in 2001 and the number ‘as on today’ is 76,02,397. “This increase is mainly due to new voters, who attained the age of 18 years”, said the advertisement. ‘As on today’ is with reference to last electoral revision that was in 2019. There has not been an electoral roll revision since 2019. An increase of 25 lakhs, as Hridesh Kumar suggested, is expected after the current round of summary revision.

Here is how the elector count has increased, election after election, over the past 30 years.

When Jammu and Kashmir went to last Assembly polls in 2014, the total votes were 73,16,946, which was 13.2% higher than the total votes in the previous elections. From this figure, we also understand that electors increased by 2,85,451 over four years -between 2014 and 2019 -an increase of around 71,000 per year.

At the time of 2008 Assembly elections, the total voter count in Jammu and Kashmir was 64,61,757, registering an increase of only 6.3% over the previous election. In 2002, there were 60,78,570 electors.

At 2002 elections, the electoral roll was 27.5 percent higher than the previous election of 1996 when the total vote count was 47,61,095.

The highest elector count between any two elections over the last four decades was in 1996. The election that happened after nine years of the previous one against normal gap of six years saw rise in electors by around 34%. There were 35,55,549 electors in 1987 elections and, as mentioned above, 47,61,095 in 1996. This increase of 12,05,546 suggests an average annual increase of around 1.5 lakh votes.

Even as the increase of 25 lakhs after the current summary revision is a mere estimate but if the final figure comes around this, the total elector count be 1,01,02,397, which is 27 lakhs higher than the last Assembly elections of 2014 and, of course, 25 lakhs higher than what is counted in last electoral roll revision of 2019.

In terms of percentage as calculated above for five previous elections since 1987, a possible rise of 25 lakhs electors would be 36 percent on the elector count 2014 -an average annual rise of 3,12,500 voters.

This figure of percentage rise mimics the 1996 scenario when the elector count rise over the previous election was by around 34 percent.

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About the author

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Zafar Choudhary

A journalist since 1999, Zafar Choudhary is also a policy analyst and author. An alumni of the London School of Economics, his book ‘Kashmir Conflict and Muslims of Jammu’ addresses a critical gap in scholarship on Kashmir. Zafar is founder and editor of The Dispatch

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