15 months after constitution, Delimitation Comm to visit J&K for 4 days from July 6

Will meet political parties, public reps, Admn

NC, PDP, others likely to attend meeting; decision soon

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, June 30: Fifteen months after its constitution, the Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai will pay first four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir from July 6 during which it will stay for two days each in Jammu and Kashmir divisions interacting with all political parties, public representatives and the administration taking their view point on delimitation of 90 Assembly seats in the Union Territory.
A decision to visit Jammu and Kashmir was taken at a meeting of the Commission held in New Delhi today and attended by Desai and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra. Third official member of the Commission, KK Sharma, the State Election Commissioner (SEC) J&K was, however, not present in the meeting.
As per tentative schedule of the Delimitation Commission’s visit, it will meet all political parties in Srinagar on July 6 and Jammu on July 8. Of four days visit, the Commission members will be in Srinagar on July 6 and 7 and Jammu on July 8 and 9.
The Commission announced its first visit to Jammu and Kashmir just a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired All Party Meeting of Jammu and Kashmir leaders in New Delhi in which the participants were assured fast-paced process of delimitation in J&K followed by elections and Statehood.
“The Commission is likely to meet almost all recognized political parties, both national as well as regional, besides public representatives, who presently include the DDC and ULB heads,” sources said, adding the Panel will also meet the Government officials including the Deputy Commissioners. While the Prime Minister had met leaders of eight political parties, the Delimitation Commission is likely to expand its meetings and meet maximum political parties to ensure that everyone is taken on-board in the exercise of delimitation of Assembly constituencies.
After meeting with the Prime Minister, there are indications that Kashmir-based political parties might also meet the Delimitation Commission.
The National Conference with three Lok Sabha MPs and BJP with two are the only two political parties to have representation in the Commission as the MPs have been nominated as Associate Members of the Panel. However, the NC had boycotted the first meeting of the Commission in February this year but there were now indications that the party is having rethinking and could join the Commission proceedings especially after meeting with the Prime Minister.
According to NC leaders, they have authorized party president Dr Farooq Abdullah to take call on joining the Delimitation Commission proceedings.
The Commission has been mandated to delimit 90 Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir while 24 seats have been reserved for PoJK.
“The Commission will gather “first hand” inputs on the conduct of the mega exercise to carve out new constituencies there,’ the Delimitation Commission said in a statement issued this afternoon after its meeting.
“During the visit period, the Commission will interact with political parties, public representatives and Union Territory administration officials including District Election Officers/Deputy Commissioners of 20 districts of the UT to gather first hand information and input concerning the ongoing process of delimitation as mandated under the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019,” the statement said.
The Commission, it said, expected that all stakeholders will “cooperate” in this endeavour and provide valuable suggestions so that the task of delimitation is completed timely.
The statement added that the Delimitation Commission already has had a series of meetings related to data/map of the districts/constituencies related to census 2011.
“Earlier, it invited all Associate Members for interaction, which were participated by two of the Associate Members. A number of representations have also been received on various aspects concerning delimitation from civil societies and members of the public from the UT,” the statement said.
The Delimitation Commission has already taken note of all such suggestions and directed that these may be deliberated further in the context of ground realities concerning delimitation, it added.
The Commission, constituted in March last year with a one year time frame to complete its task, is entrusted with redrawing the Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir.
It was given its first extension of one year by the Union Government in March this year in view of the COVID pandemic. It has its tenure till March 5, 2022.
The visit of the Delimitation Commission comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with leaders of mainstream political parties from Jammu and Kashmir last week where he stressed that the delimitation exercise has to happen quickly so that polls can be held in the UT.
During the visit, the members of the Delimitation Commission will hold talks with various political parties, their representatives and also the five Associate Members who are the five Lok Sabha MPs from the UT.
During today’s meeting, the Delimitation Commission is understood to have reviewed the progress made so far, including the consultations held by it last week with all Deputy Commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir on restructuring of the existing Assembly constituencies and carving out seven new seats early this month.
At the virtual meeting with the Deputy Commissioners on June 23, inputs were gathered on how to make the Assembly seats more geographically compact.
Once the delimitation exercise is completed, the number of Assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir will go up from 83 to 90.
Twenty-four seats of the Assembly continue to remain vacant as they fall under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
While splitting Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories through the Reorganization Act, the Union Home Ministry had increased Assembly seats of Jammu and Kashmir by seven taking total seats to 114-24 of which are reserved for Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) while election will be held for 90 seats.
Erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir had 111 seats including 24 reserved for PoK while elections were held for 87 seats. With creation of Ladakh as Union Territory, four seats of the region were reduced and the Assembly was left with 83 seats. However, with increase of seven seats, J&K UT will have an Assembly of 90 seats. Two Women MLAs will be nominated to the House, which was the position earlier also.
In the previous Assembly, Kashmir had 46 seats, Jammu 37 and Ladakh four.
Delimitation of the Assembly constituencies was last held in 1994-95 during the President’s Rule when seats of the erstwhile State Assembly were raised from 76 to 87. Jammu region’s seats were increased from 32 to 37, Kashmir’s from 42 to 46 and Ladakh’s two to four. However, the delimitation was freezed in 2002 by the then National Conference Government headed by Dr Farooq Abdullah in lines with the decision taken by then Central Government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Elections to the Legislative Assembly will be held only after delimitation of Assembly constituencies is completed.
The delimitation of Assembly seats has become necessity as it would be treated as new Assembly altogether with reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Scheduled Castes enjoyed reservations in the previous State Assembly also where seven constituencies were reserved for them including Chhamb, Domana, RS Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban, all in Jammu region, while STs had been denied political reservations.
“The STs will get political reservations for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir,” sources pointed out.
It may be mentioned here that seats reserved for SCs had to be rotated after every two terms but in the erstwhile J&K State Assembly, four elections were held on the same reserved seats without rotating them. The Delimitation Commission could now reserve seats in different areas for the SCs, they said.