EC to initiate process for delimitation of Assembly seats in J&K

CEC discusses issue at high-level meet
Commission to be set up for drawing boundaries

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Aug 13: The Election Commission of India will shortly initiate the process for delimitation of 90 Assembly constituencies in proposed Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as it held its first meeting in this direction at the Nirvachan Sadan in New Delhi where Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora and other Election Commissioners were briefed by the top officials on Jammu and Kashmir Re-organization Bill, which has bifurcated the State of J&K into two UTs-J&K and Ladakh.
However, the Union Territories will come into existence on October 31.
Sources told the Excelsior that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) headed by Amit Shah, which had drafted the J&K Re-organization Bill will first write to the Election Commission for undertaking the exercise of delimitation of constituencies following increase of seven seats for the Legislative Assembly, which has been granted to Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Ladakh UT hasn’t been granted the Assembly.
“Top officials of the Election Commission were reported to have briefed the Chief Election Commissioner and fellow Election Commissioners on undertaking the exercise on delimitation of Assembly constituencies in the State,” sources said, adding the Delimitation Commission had to include a representative of the Election Commission in the rank of Deputy Election Commissioner.
According to sources, the exercise to undertake delimitation of 90 Assembly constituencies for Jammu and Kashmir would be set into motion by the Election Commission after receiving a formal communication from the Ministry of Home Affairs, which happens to be the Nodal Ministry for bifurcation of the State and grant of the Legislative Assembly.
While splitting Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories through Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, which was approved by the Parliament on August 6 and assented to by President Ram Nath Kovind three days later, the 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 on 90 seats.
Jammu and Kashmir State 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.
In the previous Assembly, Kashmir had 46 seats, Jammu 37 and Ladakh four.
“Elections to the Legislative Assembly will be held only after delimitation of Assembly constituencies is completed,” sources said, adding that the Election Commission of India was also likely to hold consultations with its representatives in Jammu and Kashmir after receiving a formal communication from the Union Home Ministry.
“There can be altogether different Assembly constituencies with different boundaries as it will not be binding on the Delimitation Commission to stick to the segments, which existed in Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly,” sources said, adding since the Commission could take time to draw boundaries and name 90 constituencies, holding elections to the Assembly might take time.
As per the legislation, the delimitation of Assembly constituencies will be carried out on the basis of 2011 census.
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 State Assembly also where seven constituencies were reserved for them including Chhamb, Domana, RS Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban 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, and said number of seats to be reserved for the STs is yet to be decided.
Worthwhile to mention here that seats reserved for SCs had to be rotated after every two terms but in J&K State Assembly, four elections were held on the same seats without rotating them. The Delimitation Commission could now reserve seats in different areas for the SCs, they said.
The Commission was also briefed about the process that was followed for holding delimitation exercise when new states were carved out in the past including Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and Bihar and Jharkhand.