The Centre’s move to table the J&K Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023 before the Lok Sabha to pave the way for the reservation of seats for Kashmiri Pandits and migrants from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on July 25 drew flak from the regional parties in Kashmir.
“J&K, despite being a Muslim majority State, has a history of electing Kashmiri Pandits to the Assembly. The move to reserve seats and grant powers to the Governor to nominate them is another attempt by the BJP to unfairly add up their numbers in J&K. The pre-poll rigging in J&K started with the redrawing of constituencies,” senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former J&K Minister Naeem Akhtar told The Hindu.
Mr. Akhtar said the powers being granted to the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) to nominate members only “indicates a brazen bid by New Delhi to have veto powers in an elected Assembly”.
The Bill is likely to grant powers to the L-G to nominate two MLAs from the Kashmiri migrant community, and one migrant from PoK, to the Union Territory’s Legislative Assembly.
“We have no problem with representation to underrepresented communities. That was also the logic behind having an Upper House, which was scrapped under this very J&K Reorganisation Act. Our opposition is to the proposal of the L-G nominating people. This should be the prerogative of the elected government, and not an unelected representative of Delhi,” National Conference (NC) chief spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq told The Hindu.
Prior to 2019, the J&K Assembly had two reserved seats for women. These seats would be nominated by the Governor with the approval of the elected government.
“The fact that the L-G is being authorised to nominate is another admission that the BJP are convinced they will lose the next election in J&K. They are using the nomination route to try to get a handful of members in the House,” Mr. Sadiq said.
He said the NC had already rejected the Reorganisation Act of 2019. “The entire process is currently under challenge in the court. It raises concerns about how the government can proceed with a decision in such haste while it is still being debated before the Supreme Court,” Mr. Sadiq said.
Sajad Lone’s J&K Peoples Conference (JKPC) has also expressed its concerns. “We firmly believe that the nomination process should be carried out on the advice of the Council of Ministers to ensure fair representation and uphold democratic values in J&K,” JKPC spokesperson Adnan Mir said.
He said it is fundamental in a parliamentary democracy that the President, Governor, or L-G acted on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. “This principle extends to the nomination of members to the Lok Sabha or any State Legislature. The central government’s proposed Bill appears to equip the L-G as the sole authority, bypassing the constitutional requirement of seeking advice,” Mr. Mir said.
Mr. Mir expressed fears that selective nominations by the L-G “could potentially alter the majority in the Legislature into a minority, thus subverting the democratic will of the people”.
“This undemocratic tactic not only undermines the essence of our democratic structure but also poses a severe threat to the basic tenets of our Constitution,” Mr. Mir said.
The number of seats in the J&K Assembly were increased by seven after the Centre ended the erstwhile State’s special constitutional position in 2019. Out of 114 seats, 24 were reserved for constituencies in PoK, and 90 for constituencies in J&K.