Opposition calls J&K delimitation ‘cosmetic exercise’

Published on May 06, 2022 03:38 AM IST
BJP welcomes the final draft of Delimitation Commission’s report, says wrongs committed in the past rectified today
Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission signs the final order for restructuring the assembly seats in the Union Territory on Thursday. (ANI)
Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission signs the final order for restructuring the assembly seats in the Union Territory on Thursday. (ANI)
ByRavi Krishnan Khajuria and Mir Ehsan, Jammu/srinagar

Leaders from opposition parties in Jammu and Kashmir have flayed the Delimitation Commission’s report released on Thursday by terming it a ‘cosmetic exercise’ aimed at consolidating the vote bank of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Muslim-majority region.

Former member of legislative council (MLC) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and a close confidante of Mehbooba Mufti, Firdous Tak, said, “The outcome is exactly what was expected from the Commission, which came into existence for the sole purpose of facilitating the designs of the BJP to grab power by all means in Jammu and Kashmir.”

“We are sure that whatever the sinister designs the right wing organisation has for Jammu and Kashmir, it will face public anger and defeat whenever it goes to seek mandate,” Tak added.

Party’s chief spokesperson Suhail Bukhari said the PDP hasn’t changed its stance. The PDP had earlier accused the delimitation panel of helping the BJP.

People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) spokesperson and CPI (M) leader MY Tarigami said, “The Re-organisation Act modified the law of enfranchisement of J&K. Voting rights for the state assembly which were restricted to only permanent residents have been extended to non-state subjects also. The exercise is bound to disempower the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the long run.”

Chief spokesperson of the J&K Congress, Ravinder Sharma, said, “We have not seen the final draft yet, but we had several objections. We had submitted a few proposals and objections, but they didn’t consider most of the things. So, we have little expectation of justice, but will still see what the final draft is. The conduct of the panel didn’t inspire confidence. It is the BJP’s draft report, which was also confessed by J&K BJP president over phone.”

Senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said a cursory look at the report reveals some of its “extremely negative” sides, which can never be accepted by the people of the J&K.

Former J&K chief minister and Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah, meanwhile, refused to comment on the development and said, “I am in Darjeeling and I can’t say anything till I see the final report.”

National Conference (NC) chief spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq said, “We have seen the final recommendations of the Delimitation Commission. We are studying their implications on individual assembly constituencies. No amount of gerrymandering will change the ground reality which is that whenever elections are held, the voter will punish the BJP and its proxies for what they have done to J&K over the last four years.”

The People’s Conference said the delimitation report is a repeat of the past and accused the NC of providing sanctity to the delimitation exercise.

“Same traditional entities are calling the shots behind the scenes. Kashmir has been discriminated against as in the past. No change. Only degree of disempowerment is greater,” the party said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“Wish Kashmiri parties had stayed away and not diluted the stigma associated with a people-less process. Hope Kashmiris will remember the parties who associated themselves with delimitation process which was in essential a tool for disempowerment will always be in wonderment. How could a party which associated itself with the delimitation process be so audacious,”it said , adding that the party said it will go for an RTI and seek the video recordings of the meetings.

Apni Party spokesperson Javeed Baig said the Commission conducted the exercise in a way to “benefit some powerful people”. “Now, we can’t even challenge this. There are huge shortcomings in the Baramulla district,” he added.

Former J&K deputy chief minister and BJP leader Kavinder Gupta, however, welcomed the final draft.

“We welcome it. People in J&K waited for it for long with a hope that discrimination meted out to them will end for ever. The panel in the past over two years took into consideration aspects like area, topography, accessibility, and population before preparing this report. There were many assembly seats in Jammu where the population was two lakh and in Kashmir there were many seats for 20,000 to 25,000 people. The malady has been rectified today,” he said.

“Overall, it is a good report and all parameters were taken into consideration. The Opposition time and again raised questions about it. May I ask them when the delimitation was conducted in 1996, why had the government decided to freeze it till 2026? Because of them (Valley-centric regimes), the vast and hilly region of Jammu had just 37 seats and Kashmir, where there were less voters, had 46 seats. Similarly, four seats were given to Ladakh. Today, area, population, accessibility and terrain were taken into consideration by the panel,” he added.

“The Opposition parties are crying hoarse today because they stand exposed. They always misled people. The wrongs committed by them were rectified today and hence, their pain can be understood,” Gupta said.

BJP’s J&K spokesperson Altaf Thakur said, “We hope they have given consideration to the suggestions made by people and the political parties. Now, elections should be held soon and our party is ready for polls.”

‘Renaming Kathua-North as Jasrota is victory of people’

Former MLC and senior Congress leader Thakur Balbir Singh on Thursday said the decision of the Delimitation Commission to rename Kathua-North as Jasrota assembly constituency is a victory of the people.

Interacting with locals at Kathua, the former MLC said during his meeting with the members of the panel in the second week of April, he had brought this matter to their notice, who had assured to seriously consider it, keeping in view the sentiments of the local people.

It may be mentioned here that the Commission had been assigned the task of redrawing the Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies in J&K following revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A that paved way for the J&K Reorganisation Act in 2019.

In the first draft proposal, the Commission had proposed six seats for the Jammu division and one for Kashmir, and it was not changed in the fresh draft proposal published in gazettes and has been kept same in the final report also.

Likewise, in the second draft, some parts of Rajouri and Poonch districts that are part of the Jammu division had been included in the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat and that too has been left without any change, despite strong objections from three National Conference MPs and local delegations. In the final report, it has been left unchanged.

The Delimitation Commission had on March 3 released the draft report for public remarks and sought objections and suggestions from the people of Jammu and Kashmir before March 21.

On April 4, the panel had met over 200 delegations in Jammu before leaving for Srinagar in the evening.

The panel -- comprising Justice (retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai as its chairperson and chief election commissioner Sushil Chandra and state election commissioner KK Sharma as members -- was set up on March 6, 2020, with one-year term. However, in the wake of the Covid pandemic, its term was extended by one year on March 6, 2021.

It also has five associate members: three National Conference Lok Sabha members (Farooq Abdullah, Hasnain Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone), BJP MP Jugal Kishore and Union minister Jitendra Singh.

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