EC may take up redrawing of J&K constituency boundaries soon
A commission will soon be set up to undertake the exercise of delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. On Monday, union home minister Amit Shah introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 in the Rajya Sabha; the bill gives a mandate to the election commission to carry out the task of delimitation, once the Bill to reorganise the state as the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is passed in both houses of Parliament. As per the provisions of the Bill, Ladakh will be a UT without a legislature.
Delimitation is the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province with a legislative body.
The Bill , passed with the 2/3rd majority in the Rajya Sabha and will be taken up for passage in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, has also proposed raising the strength of the assembly to 114 plus two nominated members. At present the state assembly had 111 members plus two nominated members. Of this 87 are elected members, 24 seats that fall in the part of Kashmir under Pakistan’s Occupation have been left vacant.
Of the 87 seats, 46 are in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu and four in Ladakh.
The Bill proposes carrying out the delimitation on the basis of the 2011 census.
There is no clarity on whether elections in the state will be conducted anytime soon, though there has been speculation that this could happen in October-November. “We don’t know if the elections will be conducted after the delimitation is carried out, which could take some time or if the election commission will go ahead with the existing constituencies,” said a BJP functionary.
The party has been in favour of delimitation, pointing out how changes in the demography in the state need to be accounted for. “There is no doubt that once delimitation is carried out there will be rationalization of seats in the Jammu region. There is also the need to look at reserving seats for Gujars and Bakerwals who have been an integral part of the population,” the functionary added, asking not to be named. Gujars and Bakerwals, nomadic communities, are designated scheduled tribes in the state.
Local parties such as the National Conference and the PDP have been opposed to delimitation till 2026, when it was next due, and believed that this could assign more seats to the Jammu region, benefitting the BJP.
The exercise of delimitation will be carried out in J&K after over two decades; in 2002, the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on the fresh delimitation of seats till 2026.
“The delimitation commission will have the task of carrying out the exercise of both the assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir regions of the existing state. Ladakh which currently has one LS seat and four assembly seats, will not have an assembly and will be governed by a council,” said a second party functionary aware of the developments.
As per the information on EC website, Delimitation Commissions have been constituted four times – in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952, in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962, in 1973 under Delimitation Act, 1972 and in 2002 under Delimitation Act, 2002.