Delimitation in J&K: History, Recent Developments and Uproar
The new draft proposal from the Delimitation Commission says Kashmir will now have 47 seats and Jammu 43.
More than two years after the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories in August 2019, a recent Delimitation Commission proposal has suggested adding six new legislative seats for Jammu and just one for Kashmir.
The proposal has led to an uproar among Kashmir-based political parties who have outrightly rejected the proposal claiming manipulation is being done in electoral constituencies so as to favour one party.
So what exactly is this delimitation exercise for Jammu and Kashmir? What does this recent draft proposal say? How much progress has the Delimitation Commission made since the announcement of bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories in August 2019, and what have been the reactions to this development?
Here’s all you need to know.
Delimitation in J&K: History, Recent Developments and Uproar
What Is Delimitation?
The Election Commission of India describes it as the “act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province (state or Union Territory) having a legislative body.” The process may also entail a change in the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to different states, as well as in the number of Legislative Assembly seats for each state.
This is a process which is usually carried out every few years in order to ensure that every constituency has a similar number of voters.
The last nationwide delimitation exercise was carried out by the 2002 Delimitation Commission, set up after the 2001 census. The recommendations by the commission, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Kuldip Singh, were implemented in 2008. The Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies carved out by the 2002 commission will be in effect till 2026.
Jammu & Kashmir's History With Delimitation So Far?
Under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, the number of constituencies in the Union Territory are to be raised from 107 to 114. But this also takes into account the 24 seats falling under Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). Excluding these 24 constituencies, the effective strength of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly would become 90, as compared to 83 earlier.
The last time a delimitation exercise took place in Jammu and Kashmi was in 1995, at a time when the state was under President's Rule. Before that, delimitation on a provisional basis was done in 1993 by Governor Jagmohan when the state was divided into 87 Assembly constituencies.
The Farooq Abdullah government in 2002 had amended the state constitution, freezing delimitation till 2026, according to a PTI report. This brought J&K on par with other states of India, in terms of delimitation exercise.
J&K BJP’s Demand for Delimitation & PDP, KJNC’s Opposition
However, the J&K Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been raising the demand for delimitation in the state since the 2008 Amarnath land row.
According to the state BJP, the aim of this exercise is to correct the alleged inequity and regional disparity in Jammu, with the region getting a larger share of seats in the 87-member state Assembly.
However, the apex court in 2010 upheld the freeze imposed by the J&K government till 2026 and dismissed the plea that it violated the "basic structure" of the state constitution.
Any possibility of delimitation being carried out in J&K has been vehemently opposed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), which are the two biggest parties in the state.
Developments on Delimitation in J&K in 2020
To carry out the exercise in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of its special status revocation, a Delimitation Commission was set up on 6 March 2020.
A year after being constituted, the Delimitation Commission got an extension for one year in March 2020.
The commission held a meeting in February this year. At the meeting, the two BJP leaders suggested that population should not be the only factor considered for the delimitation process, but also the geographical considerations for Jammu.
In June, the Delimitation Commission wrote to 20 district commissioners seeking various details, including intra-district demographic distribution, population density distribution, topography, and the “political aspirations of people in the district vis-a-vis constituencies.”
On Monday, 20 December, a draft by the central government’s Delimitation Commission was given to the five MPs from Jammu and Kashmir who are associate members of the body.
6 New Seats for Jammu and 1 for Kashmir
“For the first time, in Jammu and Kashmir, nine seats are proposed to be allocated for Scheduled Tribes out of 90 seats on the basis of population. Seven seats are proposed for Scheduled Castes," said the Delimitation Commission.
Since the last delimitation, the number of districts has increased from 12 to 20 and the number of tehsils from 52 to 207, said the commission.
Earlier, in the erstwhile state Assembly, Jammu province had 37 seats, Kashmir 46, and Ladakh 4. However, as per the draft proposal, Kashmir will now have 47 seats and Jammu 43.
The commission for some districts also proposed carving out of an additional constituency to balance the representation for geographical areas having “inadequate communication and lack of public conveniences due to their inhospitable conditions on international border.”
Uproar Over the New Draft Proposal
Time and again, concerns had been expressed over how the delimitation process may end up favouring the Jammu region over Kashmir in terms of the seats. On the other hand, arguments have also been made on how the Jammu region has been underrepresented, with demands for increasing its share.
“We were shown a draft proposing 6 additional seats for Jammu, 1 for Kashmir valley. This (proposal) is totally unacceptable and is disproportionate as per the 2011 census. Delimitation Commission asked us to submit our objection by 31 December,” National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi was quoted as saying.
"Delimitation commission briefed us on further proceedings, including their criteria in increasing seats district-wise. 2 BJP & 3 National Conference members were present," BJP MP Jugal Kishore Sharma told. "The commission also asked us to respond to any changes/objections by 31 December," he added.
Meanwhile, ANI quoted Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad as saying, "It's fine that SC & ST communities are getting seats (in the J&K Delimitation Commission), but seats for STs should've been divided in both Jammu province & Kashmir province, as the ST population is almost equal."
This development also comes amid a massive strike by employees of the Power Development Department (PDD), who are protesting against the government’s move to merge J&K Power Development Department into the Power Grid Corporation of India and the handing over of the assets to private companies.
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