J&K delimitation move aimed at deferring polls, implementing RSS agenda: NC, PDP

Jammu and Kashmir’s regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday described the Centre’s move to set up a delimitation commission as “a ploy to defer Assembly elections” and “implementing the long-held RSS agenda here”.

“The freeze on delimitation in J&K till 2026 was pushed by the NC regime after amending J&K’s constitution,” NC leader and Member of Parliament Hasnain Masoodi told The Hindu. “The constitution does not exist after the Centre’s August 5 decision. I fear the hurry to push for delimitation is to delay Assembly polls in J&K. It will be used as an excuse not to hold polls,” Mr. Masoodi added. He said it comes at a time when all political processes has been stopped and the local political parties have been thrown out of the arena. On taking any legal course to stop delimitation, Mr. Masoodi said, “The decision would usually be taken by the Political Affairs Committee of the party. Unfortunately, NC president Dr. Farooq Abdullah, vice president Omar Abdullah and the general secretary are all behind bars,” the MP said.

Iin 2002, the government headed by Farooq Abdullah pushed for a freeze on delimitation tilll 2026 by amending the J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957, and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of J&K.

Even the PDP had, at the time, opposed any early delimitation. Senior PDP leader Firdous Tak said, “The delimitation move is another leaf from the red book of the RSS and the BJP to target and disempower a particular community. It is aimed at hitting at the Muslim character, which remains an eyesore for many. My fear is that constituencies will be carved up on the basis of ideology and religious belief.”

Senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said the best course available to the Union Home Ministry was to wait for a democratically elected Legislative Assembly, where the subject would be discussed followed by the decision. “Otherwise, the system can suffer considerable tension,” he warned.

The delimitation exercise has been set in motion as the J&K administration also rolled out the census process, which is likely to take place from June. It remains to be seen whether the 2011 census or the 2021 census report will be the basis of the delimitation, which aims to create seven more constituencies as envisaged by the J&K Reorganisation Act passed on August 5, 2019. The process is likely to take at least two years.

The BJP has been pushing for a delimitation exercise to increase Assembly segments in the Jammu region. At present, the Kashmir region has 42 seats and the Jammu region 37 seats on the basis of population ratio.

“The BJP’s demand is that the area, population and topography be kept in mind while carrying out the exercise,” said BJP State general secretary Ashok Koul.

Panchayat polls’ timing

Meanwhile, representatives of several political parties met J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendera Kumar in Jammu and questioned the timing of the polls, while demanding the release of all political detainees.

The meeting was attended by the NC, PDP, Congress, BJP and National Panthers Party (NPP).

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Monga said, “The polls should either be conducted on non-party basis or the leadership, which is under detention, should be released to ensure the participation of these political parties and mandatory direction.”

He demanded the lifting of curbs in J&K for “any candidate to get peaceful and free atmosphere”.

The meeting was called days after the NC wrote to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and demanded release of political leadership to participate in the polls.

Sources said the CEO had assured the political parties that the issues would be raised “with the higher-ups to address them at the earliest”.

The ECI is set to hold bypolls for about 13,000 vacant seats in J&K from March 4.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 10:20:13 AM |

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