Leaders of different political parties of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, 6 July, met members of the Delimitation Commission, which is in Srinagar to meet administrative officials, political parties, people's representatives, and other stakeholders in relation to the imminent exercise of redrawing boundaries in the Union Territory.
However, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) abstained from the meeting as a mark of protest. Soon after, on Tuesday evening, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti took to Twitter to say that the Enforcement Directorate had sent a summons to her mother to appear in person for unknown charges.
'LACKS THE CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL MANDATE': PDP
In a two-page letter written to Ranjana Desai, a retired Supreme Court judge heading the panel, PDP General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura said that the party has decided to stay away from the delimitation process and not be part of "some exercise, the outcome which is widely believed to be pre-planned and which may further hurt the interests of our people", PTI reported.
Hanjura said that by the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in August 2019, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been "robbed of their legitimate constitutional and democratic rights."
The letter added, “We are of the considered opinion that the Delimitation Commission lacks the constitutional and legal mandate in the first place and its very existence and objectives have left every ordinary resident of J-K with many questions," PTI reported.
It further stated, "There are apprehensions that the delimitation exercise is part of the overall process of political disempowerment of the people of J&K that the government of India has embarked upon. The very intent is under question."
The matter of redrawing constituency lines was raised at the all-party meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with political leaders of J&K on 24 June.
HOW DID PARTIES REACT AFTER TUESDAY'S MEETING?
Following Tuesday's meeting with the Delimitation Commission, Congress J&K chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said, "If delimitation is to be done in 2026 in the country, why is it being done in 2021 in Jammu and Kashmir. This is a big question. Till J&K's statehood is restored, delimitation will not be beneficial."
He added that Congress is unable to say anything without looking at any draft of delimitation in J&K, according to ANI.
Meanwhile, National Conference leader Nasir Aslam Wani said, "This (Delimitation Commission meeting) is unconstitutional because we went to SC regarding this matter. They should have waited till the SC's decision. If they still want to move ahead with the exercise, it should be done in a transparent manner."
Further, he added that even if delimitation were to be carried out now, it would happen again in 2026 when it is being done across the country. "It would have been better if they had waited. But they have made up their minds," he said, according to ANI.
WHAT DID PARTIES SAY EARLIER?
The BJP, Congress, and J&K's Panthers Party had welcomed the EC's motion for delimitation and have said that they will push for a just representation of all communities in the meeting with the Delimitation Commission.
The Congress party has demanded that the commission assess the ground realities and sentiments before it redraws the constituency lines.
"In the all-party meeting, Congress had suggested that the Delimitation Commission should visit the region to get different shades of political opinion," party leader Ravinder Sharma told news agency ANI.
Sharma also suggested that a two-day assessment is not sufficient for the purpose of assessment at the grassroot level. "Meeting representatives of seven districts in an hour is not justified... We want them to visit on district and constituency levels and listen to political representatives carefully," he said.
ON DELIMITATION IN J&K
According to an Election Commission spokesperson, during the visit, the commission will also be interacting with mainstream political parties and district commissioners to gain a sense of Assembly seats.
“During the visit period, the commission will interact with political parties, public representatives and Union Territory administration officials including district election officers/deputy commissioners of 20 districts of the UT to gather first hand information and input concerning the ongoing process of delimitation as mandated under the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019,” reported PTI, quoting an Election Commission (EC) spokesperson.
The bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories alongside the effective revocation of Article 370 had set the ball rolling for a delimitation exercise to be carried out in the region.
The talks over carrying out delimitation have been renewed as Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar organised virtual meetings with 20 deputy commissioners from J&K on 23 June.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)