National Conference leadership is likely to revisit its decision of not participating in the delimitation commission exercise.
Sources say the NC working committee has recommended that the party should participate in the delimitation commission meetings and present its viewpoint. “We cannot be bystanders to the delimitation exercise. Tomorrow if the delimitation commission comes up with something that is not acceptable to Kashmir or any other region or sub-region, we will be held responsible,” says a party leader.
“Our participation in the exercise will ensure that we present our view, which is the view of people about how constituencies should be delimited. All working committee is saying that the party should put strong arguments before the Commission,” says a party leader. “Our absence didn’t halt the delimitation exercise. Our presence will ensure we present our perspective before the Commission and later before people of J&K,” he says. He says the decision about the participation lies with the party president Dr. Farooq Abdullah.
At present threadbare discussion is going on within the party about various issues including the delimitation commission exercise.
Dr. Farooq Abdullah Tuesday addressing a meeting of his party leaders said he was not against the delimitation of the constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir but the method adopted is not in tandem with the procedure. “We will uphold the interests of the people at all costs in every forum”, Dr Farooq Abdullah said.
Meanwhile, the delimitation commission has asked all 20 deputy commissioners of the region to share data pertaining to electorates and other compositions in their districts. The delimitation commission headed by Retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai was constituted on March 6, 2020 for a period of one year to delimit the constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. However, it has not visited J&K since it was established.
On March 4, the Union ministry of law and justice issued a notification extending the tenure of the commission by one year. The commission’s term was coming to end on March 5, 2021.
The Delimitation Commission is a panel that was set up last year to redraw the electoral constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir and four northeastern states— Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. However, the one-year extension was only been ordered for Jammu and Kashmir.
On February 18, the Delimitation Commission on Jammu & Kashmir held the first meeting. The NC MPs from Kashmir, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Hasnain Masoodi, and Akbar Lone, who are also associate members of the Commission, did not attend the meeting saying the exercise is “unconstitutional”. Since the Delimitation Commission has been constituted under Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, the NC initially described the exercise as unconstitutional as it has challenged the law before the Apex Court.
In the absence of the Legislative Assembly, the NC and BJP Lok Sabha members were nominated as associate members of the Delimitation Commission without having any voting rights.
Since the population of Kashmir Valley is higher than Jammu, Jammu politicians have been long insisting that instead of population, geography should be made criteria. Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act says that the number of seats in the Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir would be increased from 107 to 114 including 24 seats which are reserved for Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) while the election will be held for 90 seats.
Before August 5, 2019, the State of Jammu and Kashmir had 111 seats including 24 reserved for PoK, and elections were held for 87 seats. With the creation of Ladakh as Union Territory, four seats of the region were reduced and the Assembly was left with 83 seats. In the previous Assembly, Kashmir had 46 seats, Jammu 37, and Ladakh four.
Delimitation of the Assembly constituencies was last held in 1994-95 during the president’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. At that time seats of the erstwhile State Assembly were raised from 76 to 87. Jammu region’s seats were increased from 32 to 37, Kashmir’s from 42 to 46, and Ladakh’s seats increased from two to four.
However, the then National Conference government had frozen delimitation in 2002 in accordance with the decision taken by the then NDA government.
Naseer Ganai in Srinagar