LC strength will be down to just 22 as 8 more MLCs set to complete term

No elections in absence of Assembly

In a first: BJP to be single largest party

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Jan 6: For the first time in past two decades, strength of the Legislative Council will be reduced to 22 in absence of the Assembly in the State as eight members of the Upper House will complete their tenure on March 16 but the Election Commission will be unable to conduct election for the vacancies since there was no Electoral College.
“This will also be for the first time that the BJP will emerge as single largest party in the Upper House of the State after retirement of eight Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) in the month of March,’’ official sources told the Excelsior.
Of eight MLCs, who will complete their term in March this year, three each belonged to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress and one each to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and National Conference.
They are Naeem Akhter, former Minister, Yashpal Sharma and Firdous Tak (all from PDP), Rani Gargi Billowria, Naresh Gupta and Mohammad Muzaffar Parrey (all from Congress), Sofi Yusuf (BJP) and Showkat Ahmad Ganai (National Conference). Of them Sofi Yusuf and Firdous Tak have term of four years only while six others will get full six years tenure.
The Legislative Council has total strength of 36, which had come down to 30 last month after four representatives from Panchayats completed their term in the Upper House. Two vacancies already existed in the Council since 2008 and 2011 from the quota of Urban Local Bodies.
With retirement of eight more Legislative Council members in the month of March, number of the vacancies in the Upper House will rise to 14 and its strength will come down to just 22. This will be for the first time that strength of the Council will be reduced to just 22 in the past about two decades.
Strength of the Council had come down to naught in 1996 as there was no Legislative Assembly in the State from 1989 to 1996 due to imposition of President’s rule in the State for about six years in view of disturbed conditions. All 22 vacancies in the Council were then filled in 1997. Only 22 members of the Legislative Council are elected by the MLAs—11 each from Jammu and Kashmir divisions with one seat each reserved for Doda, Poonch, Leh and Kargil. Eight MLCs are nominated by the Government while four MLCs are elected by the Panchayat and two by the Urban Local Bodies’ members.
“As the Legislative Assembly has been dissolved and fresh elections will take time, the Council strength will come down to 22 in March this year,’’ sources said, adding that the Government will have to hold elections to four vacancies from Panchayat and two from Municipalities’ quota to raise the Upper House strength to 28. However, elections for eight vacancies arising in March can be held only after the new Assembly is constituted as the MLAs comprised Electoral College for these eight seats.
Sources pointed out that this will also be for the first time that the BJP will emerge as single largest party in the Legislative Council after completion of the term of eight members in March.
Out of 22 members Legislative Council in March, the BJP will have 10 members followed by eight of the PDP, three from National Conference and just one from the Congress. This will also be a rare occasion when the Congress will have lone member in the Council (Thakur Balbir Singh), who has term till 2023, while the BJP will have 10 members. In 1996, BJP had just one member in the Upper House (Daya Krishan Kotwal) and after his retirement, the party had no presence in the Council till it came to power with the PDP in 2015.
Presently, PDP and BJP have equal number of 11 members in the Council followed by National Conference and Congress four each.
As per Rules and Procedures of the Council, one-third members of the Upper House, elected by the MLAs, had to retire after every two years.
The Election Commission can hold elections to eight vacancies of the Legislative Council, which will arise on March 16 this year only after the new Assembly is in place, sources said.
However, it can fill six vacancies—four from the quota of Panchayats and two from Municipalities whenever the Government gives a nod. The MLCs from Panchayat quota are elected by Sarpanchs and Panchs while the Corporators/Councilors/Members of the ULBs comprised Electoral College for two seats from the quota of Municipalities.
Vacancies from Panchayat quota in the Upper House had arisen only in the month of December last year as all four members had completed their six years term. They were Dr Shehnaz Ganaie and Ali Mohammad Dar of National Conference and Sham Lal Bhagat and Ghulam Nabi Monga from Congress.
Of four seats for Panchayats in the Legislative Council, two each are reserved for Jammu and Kashmir divisions. Similarly, out of two seats from Urban Local Bodies, one each is reserved for Jammu and Kashmir divisions.
The ULB vacancies in the Upper House were filled up in November 2005 after elections were held to the Municipalities in January-February 2005 after a gap of 26 years. One of the members from the ULB quota, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat of PDP had given up his Legislative Council membership in 2008 after being elected to the Legislative Assembly while Congress MLC Arvinder Singh Micky had completed his six year term in November 2011.