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6 New Seats For Jammu, 1 For Kashmir – A Proposal And A Huge Fight

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Jammu and Kashmir’s delimitation was ordered following the scrapping of Article 370. (File)

Highlights

  • A major political row has erupted in Jammu and Kashmir over the proposal
  • The proposal was rejected by all political parties in Kashmir
  • Delimitation is the redrawing of boundaries of a constituency

Srinagar:

A major political row has erupted in Jammu and Kashmir over a draft proposal that has suggested six new legislative seats for Jammu and only one for Kashmir in a move that local parties have described as gerrymandering and an attempt to tilt the balance of power towards Jammu.

The draft by the union government’s Delimitation Commission was distributed among five MPs from Jammu and Kashmir who are associate members of the body during its meeting in New Delhi on Monday and was rejected by all political parties in Kashmir who have termed it biased and unacceptable.

National Conference President and MP Farooq Abdullah who attended the meeting confirmed the draft proposal and said that the party will respond to it via a formal communique on December 31.

His son Omar Abdullah tweeted:

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also slammed the Delimitation Commission, saying, “This commission has been created simply to serve BJPs political interests by dividing people along religious & regional lines.”

“The recommendations of the delimitation commission are totally unacceptable. They reek of bias. What a shock for those who believe in democracy,” Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone tweeted.

According to the mandate of the commission, the delimitation exercise was based on the 2011 census and population is the sole criteria for redrawing assembly seats.

According to the 2011 census, Kashmir has 15 lakh more population than Jammu – 68.8 lakh vs 53.5 lakh.

In the erstwhile state assembly, Jammu province had 37 seats, Kashmir 46 seats and Ladakh 4 seats.

Now, as per the draft proposal, Kashmir will have 47 seats and Jammu 43.

And once the delimitation exercise carves out new assembly constituencies, seats in Kashmir will have a population ratio of 1.46 lakh against 1.25 lakh in Jammu province.

What Is Delimitation?

Delimitation is the redrawing of boundaries of an assembly or Lok Sabha constituency to reflect changes to the population of a region.

The Delimitation Commission is an independent body and the executive and political parties cannot interfere in its functioning.

The Commission is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and includes the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner and state election commissioners.

Five MPs from Jammu and Kashmir are associate members, but their recommendations are not binding on the Commission.

Three National Conference MPs, including Farooq Abdullah, had boycotted an earlier meeting of the Delimitation Commission in February.

They have indicated that they will join the meetings if the chairman of the Commission addresses their concerns, since a case is pending before the Supreme Court.

The National Conference and other parties have challenged the August 5 decision and the delimitation exercise before the Supreme Court.

Delimitation In J&K

Until it lost its special status, the delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seats was governed by the Constitution of India and that of assembly seats, by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.

The last redrawing was in 1995 and based on the 1981 census. There was no census in the state in 1991. And after the 2001 census, the J&K assembly passed a law putting on hold delimitation till 2026.

What It Means For Jammu And Kashmir

After the loss of special status, both Lok Sabha and assembly seats are to be demarcated under the Constitution of India. A fresh Delimitation Commission was set up last year. It got an extension because of the Covid crisis.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the new legislature in J&K will have 90 seats, seven more than the previous assembly, after the constituencies are demarcated afresh.

The strength of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly was 87 before 2019, including four seats in Ladakh. 24 Assembly seats are vacant as they fall under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Why Is It Controversial?

Of 87 seats, 46 are in Kashmir and 37 in Jammu.

Since the delimitation is based on the census, several groups in Jammu have been strongly opposing delimitation based on the 2011 census. Per the 2011 census, Kashmir’s population is over 68 lakh against 53 lakh in Jammu. This means Kashmir will get more seats in terms of the population ratio.

What About Other States?

The last delimitation was held in 1994-1995 when the former state was under President’s Rule; the number of seats in the J&K assembly was increased from 76 to 87. Seats in Jammu went up from 32 to 37 and in Kashmir, from 42 to 46 seats.

In 2002, the process was put on freeze till 2026 by the National Conference government, on the heels of the NDA government at the Centre. It was decided by parliament that a Delimitation Commission will be set up after 2026 to decide on the redrawing of Lok Sabha constituencies across the country.

When the boundaries are redrawn again, the Lok Sabha are expected to go up from 543 to 888 seats. Rajya Sabha seats are expected to increase from 245 to 384.



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