Delimitation panel to meet over J&K polls

Updated on Jun 27, 2021 03:36 AM IST

“The commission will meet on Wednesday to decide a time to have an all-party meeting, including the local parties in Jammu and Kashmir,” a person familiar with the matter said. “The meeting will be held within in the month of July.”

The commission is set to discuss how to allocate the seven new constituencies it will be adding to the union territory of J&K.(Waseem Andrabi/HT file photo)
The commission is set to discuss how to allocate the seven new constituencies it will be adding to the union territory of J&K.(Waseem Andrabi/HT file photo)
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj

The delimitation commission is set to meet on Wednesday to decide when to hold an all-party meeting with national and local political units with nearly nine months left to complete the exercise, as Jammu and Kashmir gears up for its first assembly election since it became a Union territory, people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

“The commission will meet on Wednesday to decide a time to have an all-party meeting, including the local parties in Jammu and Kashmir,” a person familiar with the matter said. “The meeting will be held within in the month of July.”

The commission will also carve constituencies for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes for the first time in the erstwhile state. The primary aim will be to create constituencies on the basis of “physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience”. The commission was granted a yearlong extension in March this year to complete the exercise.

Former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai heads the commission which was constituted in March 2020 to redraw the Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. Election commissioner Sushil Chandra and state election commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir and the four states are ex-officio members of the commission.

The commission has since decided to not conduct an exercise in the north-east after concerns were raised about whether that fell within its purview.

The commission is set to discuss how to allocate the seven new constituencies it will be adding to the union territory of J&K. The number of constituencies will go up from 107 to 114, with the commission focusing on allocating areas for 90 constituencies in the Union territory, as the other 24 are part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

The last redrawing of J&K’s assembly boundaries was in 1995 and based on the 1981 census. The erstwhile state was governed under the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957, until its special status was revoked. After the 2001 census, the J&K assembly passed a law putting delimitation on hold until 2026.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah held discussions with representatives from several political outfits of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. Fourteen prominent leaders, including National Conference chief Omar Abdullah and PDP head Mehbooba Mufti, from Jammu and Kashmir took part in the meeting where issues of delimitation and statehood were discussed.

This was the first meeting of its kind since the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union territories in August 2019. Political parties from the state have expressed concerns regarding the delimitation exercise, with Abdullah saying that the exercise should be undertaken with the rest of the country in an interview with the Indian Express. A national delimitation will now be due only after 2026 as an amendment was passed by Parliament to freeze the constituencies demarcated in 2002 until then.

The delimitation commission has already collated census and geographical data to factor in the existing difficulties and communication needs of the newly formed Union territory. “There are considerations of a geographical nature, such as access in hilly districts, the Commission will have to ensure that the most basic administrative block, whether it is the tehsil or the district, is not broken down in the process. This way there can be seamless elections and effective implementation of government schemes,” said one of the people cited above.

The delimitation of new assembly constituencies will be based on the 2011 census data. The commission is also perusing representations from various parties as it undertakes the process, including one from the Vistapit Kashmiri Pandits, an organisation from the Valley seeking consideration for displaced Kashmiri pandits.

“There has been no fresh approach to the National Conference from the Delimitation Commission but as & when that happens The central working committee of the party has authorised the party president Dr Farooq Abdullah to take a view at the appropriate time on this,” said National Conference spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq.

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