The number of migrant Kashmiri Pandit voters has risen over 27 per cent during the last six years, and, more significantly, 4.65 per cent since the Lok Sabha polls earlier this very year.
State Election Commission sources told The Indian Express that the increase, from 72,793 in 2008 to 88,802 during the Lok Sabha polls, and now to 92,934 until October 30, is the result of an awareness campaign on registration and measures to make the process easier.
The sources estimate the October 30 count might have increased another 1,000 to 1,500 as new voters are still visiting officials. Registration of new voters has stopped for constituencies going to polls in the first and second phases, but the rolls for the rest can still be updated. This is after the Election Commission extended the last date for registration, formerly October 15, until 10 days before the date of polling. That means there is scope for an update in Habba Kadal, Amira Kadal and Khanyar, which have a large migrant population and vote on December 14.
Many Pandits appeared to have lost interest in elections after migrating from the valley, and election officials went about persuading them as well as their young descendants. A number of them live in Chandigarh and adjoining areas of Punjab and Haryana, and forms for them are at the Jammu and Kashmir House there, a senior officer said.
The commission will set up 26 polling booths exclusively for migrant Pandits, eight more than during the Lok Sabha polls. Four of these will be in Delhi, 21 in Jammu and one in Udhampur. These are apart from the booths each constituency will have. Migrants living elsewhere can also use the postal ballot.
If there is an election boycott in the Valley, migrant voters will hold the key in at least the constituencies of Habba Kadal, Amira Kadal and Khanyar, all part of Srinagar district. National Conference and Congress candidates won these seats in 2008, the highest anyone polled having been 6,314 votes.