Both parties file objections before Delimitation Comm on last day
NC for reverting to old boundaries of 5 Lok Sabha segments
BJP for restoration of Suchetgarh, inclusion of Pargwal in Khour
JAMMU, Feb 14: The Associate Members of BJP and National Conference today filed suggestions and objections before the Delimitation Commission on draft report submitted by it on February 4 mentioning series of corrections the Panel needs to do before putting the report in public domain for claims and objections from everyone.
While the BJP described a set of changes it wants the Panel to make in the draft report as “suggestions” saying it was satisfied with recommendations, the National Conference submitted number of objections to the Panel challenging constitution of the Commission.
The Commission while submitting its draft report to five Associate Members on February 4 had asked them to file objections till February 14.
Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, both Lok Sabha members from Jammu are Associate Members of the BJP in the Delimitation Commission while the NC members include Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, all three Lok Sabha MPs from Kashmir division.
Reliable sources told the Excelsior that while welcoming redrawing of boundaries of erstwhile Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha seat by including Poonch district and half of Rajouri district in Anantnag constituency, the BJP has demanded inclusion of South Kashmir’s Shopian segment also in this seat.
The BJP is of the view that while travelling from Poonch to South Kashmir via Mughal Road, Shopian comes first followed by Anantnag. Therefore, it demanded that the seat will be complete only after Shopian is included in the rechristened Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch Parliamentary constituency.
“While erstwhile Assembly seat of Wachi, now renamed as Zainapora, has been included in Anantnag-Poonch Lok Sabha seat, Shopian should also be part of it,” the BJP suggestions submitted to the Delimitation Commission at its office at Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi in person by Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh, said.
However, there was no official word on suggestions given to the Panel by the BJP.
The BJP has reportedly suggested that out of all three Assembly constituencies of Poonch district which have been reserved for Scheduled Tribes, at least one should be kept open for general categories, party leaders in Jammu said.
“Entire Poonch district has been reserved for STs. At least one seat should be kept open,” the BJP suggested.
The party has demanded restoration of Suchetgarh Assembly seat in Jammu district which has been merged by the Delimitation Commission with RS Pura and Bishnah segments. Both RS Pura and Bishnah constituencies have been reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCs).
The BJP has sought inclusion of Pargwal island with Khour Assembly constituency instead of Akhnoor.
“Pargwal was part of Chhamb earlier but it was merged with Akhnoor segment and reserved for SCs by the Delimitation Commission. The BJP wants Pargwal segment to be part of Chhamb (now Khour seat) again,” the sources said.
NC MP and Associate Member Hasnain Masoodi said they have demanded restoration of previous arrangement for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat.
The NC was of the view that five Lok Sabha seats as they existed earlier should be restored.
The National Conference Associate Members have submitted comprehensive document to the Commission.
Contending that the Reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir Act is “Constitutionally suspect”, the National Conference (NC) has questioned the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission especially its rationale behind increasing six seats in the Jammu division as against one in the Kashmir region and claimed that they are in violation of laid down norms.
In its 14-page reply to the Commission, the NC maintained that there were question marks over the Constitutional propriety of the panel especially when the party along with several others had approached the Supreme Court challenging the Centre’s August 5, 2019 action of revoking the special status and bifurcating the erstwhile State in two Union Territories – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Masoodi handed over the party’s reply at the Commission’s Secretariat located in a hotel today. The party said the formation of the Commission is linked to the Reorganisation Act of Jammu and Kashmir 2019 which was under judicial scrutiny and the Supreme Court is yet to deliver its order.
The panel’s recommendations are borne out of an Act that is a “Constitutionally suspect” law. In legal parlance, if any Act is under judicial custody and the Apex Court is seized of the matter, it can be termed as a Constitutionally suspect law.
The party said the principle of Constitution propriety demands that such a law should not be implemented and all the limbs of the State and their institutions should, out of deference to the top Constitutional court, desist from implementing such law till its Constitutionality is determined.
The party also accused the Delimitation Commission of “departing from its laid down norms and practices”.
The party said the population criteria, which is being followed across the country, has “taken a back seat” while finalising the share of seats in Jammu and Kashmir.
Citing Article 81 of the Constitution which states “each State shall be divided into territorial constituencies in such manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it is, so far as practicable, the same throughout the State…”, the National Conference said even this basic principle stands violated by the Delimitation Commission.
The party pointed out that as per the census of 2011, the average population criteria was placed at 1.36 lakh but the reorganisation and distribution of seats presents a different picture altogether.
It may be mentioned here that the Delimitation Commission had given six seats to Jammu and one to Kashmir out of seven constituencies increased in the Union Territory.
Since only NC and BJP have Lok Sabha MPs in Jammu and Kashmir, they have representation in the Delimitation Commission as MPs of Lok Sabha were nominated as the Associate Members to the Panel.
Rest of the political parties, organizations and individuals will be able to submit their claims and objections to the Delimitation Commission once it put its draft report in the public domain.
Headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai, the Commission has two other official members including Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and State Election Commissioner (SEC), J&K, KK Sharma.
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 Jammu Kashmir (PoJK).
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 PoJK while election will be held for 90 seats.
Erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir had 111 seats including 24 reserved for PoJK 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 line with the decision taken by then Central Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Elections to the Legislative Assembly will be held only after delimitation of Assembly constituencies is completed.