Suggestions invited till Feb 14
Panel rejects NC objections on giving 6 seats to Jammu
JAMMU, Feb 4: The Delimitation Commission today submitted its report to five Associate Members in the Parliament in which it was reported to have rejected the National Conference arguments against increasing six Assembly seats in Jammu region as against just one in Kashmir division.
The Commission has asked the Associate Members to submit their objections/suggestions by February 14, sources told the Excelsior.
They said the Commission submitted report to all five Associate Members in the Parliament this evening in which it has upheld its earlier proposal of increasing six Assembly seats in Jammu division as one in the Kashmir valley despite objections filed by three Associate Members from the National Conference.
The Commission is also reported to have decided to redraw boundaries of five Lok Sabha constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir to make it two and half seats in both divisions. It could link some areas of Rajouri and Poonch districts with South Kashmir seat of Anantnag.
“After receiving objections from the Associate Members on February 14 and taking a view on them, the Commission is likely to put the report in public domain for claims and objections,” sources said
Extended term of the Commission is expiring on March 6 and whether it will be able to submit final report within the time frame is yet to be seen.
In its objections filed before the Delimitation Commission on December 31, 2021, the National Conference had rejected the Panel’s formula for increasing six Assembly seats in Jammu and one in Kashmir on the ground that the Valley has more population and electorates than Jammu and deserves more seats.
“However, in its interim report, the Commission has stick to its formula and overruled the National Conference objections,” sources said but added that the Commission has given time till February 14 to the Associate Members to file their objections to the recommendations.
The Associate Members include Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, both Lok Sabha MPs from Jammu division and Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, all three National Conference MPs from Kashmir valley.
The Commission has two other official members including Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and State Election Commissioner (SEC), J&K, KK Sharma.
Headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai, the Delimitation Commission has held two meetings with the Associate Members so far-first on February 18 and second on December 20 in 2021. The first one was boycotted by three National Conference MPs but they attended the second meeting.
In its meeting with the Associate Members on December 20, the Delimitation Commission had also stated that it will reserve seven seats for Scheduled Castes and nine for Scheduled Tribes in the Assembly.
The Commission was set up on March 6, 2020 and was granted extension of an year on March 6, 2021.
All seven seats reserved for SCs including three in Jammu district and one each in Samba, Kathua, Ramban and Udhampur remained reserved for four consecutive Assembly elections in 1996, 2002, 2008 and 2014 though they had to be rotated after two terms. The reserved seats are now likely to be changed by the Delimitation Commission. In addition, the Commission will reserve nine seats for STs.
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.