NC’s participation in Delimitation Process

B L Saraf
Indications are loud and clear. The National Conference is all set to reverse its decision of not having any truck with the process of delimitation of Assembly constituencies in J&K. It may revoke its decision of boycotting the Delimitation Commission, which is on the job to redraw some old Assembly constituencies and carve out a dozen more. These indications emanate from the deliberations of the NC’s Working Committee which met in Srinagar, few days ago. According to the media reports majority of members felt that abstaining from the Delimitation Commission will not be a prudent thing to do as they cannot afford to leave field open for BJP to have a complete say in the matter. So, the view was that Party must fully associate with Commission and put forth its case . Final decision, though, is yet to be taken. The task has been left to the committee to be set up by Farooq Abdullah, the party President. The committee will deliberate up on the matter and come to a decision.Given the overwhelming sense of the meeting, NC’s participation in the delimitation proceedings, henceforth, is a foregone conclusion .
It may be recalled here that despite having been nominated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha as members of the Delimitation Commission, neither Farooq Abdullah nor other two MPs of the NC associated themselves with the Commission. NC had decided to boycott the Delimitation Commission. Therefore, its MPs did not attend the meeting convened by its Chairperson. Among various decisions GOI made on 5TH Aug 2019, was the one to increase number of assembly seats in the newly created UT of Jammu and Kashmir and make provision for reservation for STs. Sections 59, 60, 61 – 63 of the J &K Reorganization Act 2019 were to take care of the emerging situation. Accordingly, Central Government Constituted a Delimitation Commission in January 2020 . It is headed by Supreme Court Judge Ranjana Prakash Desai and has a mandate to redraw Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, the term of the Commission was for one year, now it stands extended up to March 2022.
National Conference had declined the offer on the ground that “This Delimitation Commission is a product of the J&K Reorganization Act 2019 which JK NC is challenging in and outside the Supreme Court . Participating in this Delimitation Commission will be tantamount to accepting the events of 5th August 2019 which the NC is unwilling to do.” There seems to be a rethinking in the Party that since it will take quite a while for the Supreme Court to decide the matter it will not advisable to sit idle till then.
As things look right now, the Supreme Court is going to take some time to decide the matter. Nobody can venture a guess which way the decision will go. Therefore , future of the Constitutional frame work of J &K -now redrawn – cannot be put in a limbo. This is time to salvage something from the broken political structure and give J&K a semblance of political entity. Jammu and Kashmir should be a State as it was before 5th August 2019. We need a Legislative Assembly which will give us a democratically elected Government and for that the job of the Delimitation Commission has to be brought to a logical end . It can only happen so when all the political parties cooperate with the Commission .
There is no denying that J&K is beset with many issues and confronted with serious problems -of governance, unemployment, regional and sub regional aspirations, etc. There is a pervading sense of deprivation felt, one way or the other, by almost all sections of the society. And, what adds to the misery is that on many issues Delhi has turned a deaf ear, so far. There is a glimmer of hope : now that prevailing circumstances, political and administrative, are not that cozy for PM Narrandra Modi and HM Amit Shah they may be receptive to what J K’s genuine political leadership would like to convey. The Delimitation Commission is the one medium to convey the message .
When in 2020 the NC declared its intention to boycott the Delimitation Commission we had, then, argued through these columns that Farooq Abdullah’s unexpressed grouse was that the delimitation process will ‘ distort ‘ electoral landscape of Jammu and Kashmir and tilt the balance in favor of a particular region, at the cost of other. May be so ? But this was no ground to abstain from the proceedings . After all Gerrymandering has been a desired tool of all politicians to carve out a ‘safe constituency’ for themselves. NC and other local politicians -including those who had allegiance to a national party – have done it in J&K when they were at the helm. In the past, they used the delimitation to carve out assembly segments in such a way and of such a demography as would secure their vote bank and exclude which they thought was inconvenient.
A cynic may say that NC’s expected decision to participate in the Delimitation Proceedings is dictated by the fear that by remaining aloof it may lose political space,gradually, till it becomes extinct and gets replaced by new leadership, emerging in the Valley. Newly formed DDCs is seen as a sign of realignment of political forces in Kashmir. Be that so ! NC still commands substantial influence on valley’s populace .By associating with the Delimitation Commission the party may be in a position to salvage something for itself as also for the benefit of erstwhile state of J&K. Presence of NC members in the deliberations of The Commission will have a salutary effect on the outcome. Besides, the political upstarts and professional party hoppers won’t have a field day. However, this has to be kept in mind that the Delimitation business is not going to be a panacea of our ills, except that will pave a way for a democratically constituted forum wherein some solution to the problems faced by the people could be found. We may then see a deliverance from the moribund political situation which prevails presently.
(T he author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge)