The story so far: The three-member J&K delimitation commission, headed by retired Supreme Court (SC) judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, has submitted its interim report to its five associate members, which included three Members of Parliament (MP) of the National Conference (NC) and two MPs of the BJP.
This paves way for the winding up of the exercise and likely announcement of elections in J&K, directly ruled by the Centre since the BJP withdrew from the coalition Government with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2018.
- The three-member J&K delimitation commission has submitted its interim report to its five associate members, which included three MPs of the National Conference and two MPs of the BJP.
- The Commission has added seven assembly constituencies to J&K. The interim report proposes an increase of six seats for the Jammu province and of one seat in the Kashmir province, almost bringing the two regions at par with each other.
- The Commission has suggested redrawing of boundaries of most of the Assembly segments in J&K. It has reconfigured 28 new constituencies and deleted 19 assembly segments.
What is the role of the delimitation commission?
The delimitation commission is an independent body constituted under Article 82 after the Parliament enacted a Delimitation Act after every census.
Interestingly, the J&K delimitation commission has not been clear to the associate members about the census report that was made as a base to carve out new constituencies in the Union Territory (UT).
How many seats have been added?
The Commission has, as per the mandate granted under the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, added seven assembly constituencies to J&K, increasing its strength from 87 to 90. The interim report proposes an increase of six seats for the Jammu province, taking the number of constituencies to 43, and an increase of one seat in the Kashmir province, taking the seat strength to 47, almost bringing the two regions at par with each other. In Kashmir, Kupwara district has been granted an additional seat and in the Jammu region Kathua district gets one additional seat, Samba gets one, Doda gets one, Rajouri gets one, Kisthwar gets one and Udhampur gets one. Of six seats, three assembly segments are from the Muslim-majority Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal valley, while three are in the Hindu Jammu-Samba-Kathua belt. The Commission has also proposed to reserve seven seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs) Hindus that mainly populate the Samba-Kathua-Jammu-Udhampur belt and nine seats for Schedule Tribes (STs) which will help Gujjar and Bakerwals, mostly non-Kashmiri speaking Muslims inhabiting the Rajouri-Poonch belt in the Jammu province.
Prior to the Centre’s move to end J&K’s special constitutional position on August 5, 2019, the erstwhile State had an 87-member assembly, with 37 constituencies in the Jammu region and 46 in the Kashmir division and four in Ladakh . Besides, 24 seats are reserved and vacant for Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Have the constituencies been reconfigured?
The Commission has suggested redrawing of boundaries of most of the Assembly segments in J&K. It has named and reconfigured 28 new constituencies and deleted 19 assembly segments.
The Commission has also proposed reframing of Lok Sabha constituencies, with J&K having five parliamentary constituencies, which included three seats from Kashmir and two from Jammu. It has proposed a Lok Sabha seat, disjointed geographically, by merging three districts of south Kashmir and two districts of Rajouri and Poonch in the Pir Panjal valley. It will be named Anantnag-Rajouri seat, which will comprise a significant population of the non-Kashmiri speaking Schedule Tribe assembly segments.
What has been the response from regional actors?
This seat sharing was criticised by regional parties in Kashmir, including the NC and the PDP, on the grounds that the Kashmir province has more population at 68.88 lakhs against 53.50 lakhs in the Jammu province. However, the commission argued that it has taken into account the topography, means of communication and convenience available and not just the population size.
According to the NC, whose MPs first boycotted and later joined the delimitation exercise, none of the suggestions made to the commission had been respected. It has maintained that the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019 was “palpably unconstitutional” and has already challenged the J&K Reorganisation Act in the Supreme Court. The party reiterated that the delimitation be carried out after 2026, as ordered by the Supreme court, after the relevant figures of the census were published. It also questioned the formula applied in case of J&K by the commission. CPI(M) leader Mohamad Yousuf Tarigami termed the Commission’s report “an arbitrary overhaul, with no regard for even the terrain, let alone the population that tends to be a basic parameter for redrawing the boundaries of assembly and parliamentary segments.