J&K delimitation panel finalises order for redrawing constituencies

ByDeeksha Bhardwaj and Ravi Krishnan Khajuria, Hindustan Times, New Delhi/jammu
May 06, 2022 07:03 AM IST

Elections in J&K, which has been without an elected government since June 2018, are expected to be held after the delimitation process is over

A panel redrawing poll constituencies in Jammu & Kashmir finalised the Union territory’s new electoral map on Thursday, concluding the controversial exercise and paving the way for elections in the region for the first time since its special status was scrapped.

Delegations outside the venue of the Delimitation Commission’s meetings in Srinagar. (ANI)
Delegations outside the venue of the Delimitation Commission’s meetings in Srinagar. (ANI)

The three-member delimitation commission issued its final order, earmarking 43 seats to the Hindu-majority Jammu region and 47 to Muslim-majority Kashmir – making up a total of 90 seats for the Union territory’s assembly, up from the current strength of 83. Out of the seven new seats added, six were allotted to Jammu and one to Kashmir. Earlier Jammu had 37 seats and Kashmir 46. This brings the Kashmir representation down to 52.2% from 55.4% of the total seats, and takes the Jammu representation up to 47.8% from 44.6%. The exercise was carried out on the basis of 2011 Census, which put the population of J&K at 12.5 million, with 56.2% in Kashmir and 43.8% in Jammu.

Also Read| J&K delimitation panel ‘extension of BJP’: Opposition

For the first time, the panel reserved nine seats for scheduled tribes (ST), reorganised some Lok Sabha constituencies while keeping their total number at five, renamed some assembly constituencies, and redrew some others. All Lok Sabha constituencies now comprise 18 assembly segments each. It also recommended that members be nominated from Kashmiri migrant communities, which primarily comprises Kashmiri Pandits who were displaced at the peak of militancy in the region in the 1990s. “It was ensured by the commission that every assembly constituency shall be contained entirely in one district and the lowest administrative units i.e. patwar circles (and wards in Jammu Municipal Corporation) were not broken and were kept in a single assembly constituency,” said the panel in a statement. The panel’s order, which came after 26 months of deliberation and was notified by the Union government on Thursday, was opposed by several political parties in Kashmir who said that the BJP and its proxies will be punished by voters whenever elections are held. In a tweet, the National Conference (NC) said it was studying the impact of the commission report on individual assembly segments in the UT but “no amount of gerrymandering will change the ground reality”.


“We are studying the implications of these recommendations for individual assembly constituencies,” NC tweeted. “No amount of gerrymandering will change the ground reality which is that whenever elections are held the voter will punish the BJP & its proxies for what they have done to J&K over the last 4 years,” it added.

The delimitation commission, which comprises former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, chief election commissioner Sushil Chandra and chief electoral officer of J&K KK Sharma, was set up in March 2020 with five parliament members from the UT as associate members. The delimitation process is important because it is the first step towards holding fresh elections in the region that has been under central rule since 2019.

J&K lost its special status and statehood on August 5, 2019, when the Centre moved to void Article 370 of the Constitution. At a landmark all-party meeting in June last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told leaders of political parties that statehood will be restored after fresh elections are held in the region, on the basis of the delimitation process.

But parties from the region, which remains bitterly opposed to the scrapping of its special status, want statehood to be restored before delimitation and elections – a demand rejected by the Centre.

The panel held deliberations with 242 delegations, received hundreds of representations and met approximately 1,600 stakeholders over a period of more than two years. “Virtually every constituency has been affected as the commission undertook a comprehensive review to ensure that the people get adequate and fair representation,” said a person familiar with the matter, requesting anonymity.

Assembly seats in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir were last redrawn in 1995, based on the 1981 Census.

The commission put districts into three categories based on whether the terrain was plain, hilly or a mix of both. The average population per seat was worked out to be around 136,000, and districts were given a margin of plus or minus 10% while proposing the allocation.

The stage will now shift to the Election Commission, which will have to begin rationalisation of polling stations and a summary revision of the electoral rolls to prepare for possible polls in the UT. The commission used the patwar circle, which is the smallest administrative unit and/or wards in the Jammu Municipal Corporation, for redrawing constituencies. It reserved nine seats for STs – six in Jammu and three in Kashmir – and seven seats for Scheduled Castes (SC), all in Jammu . It recommended to the government that at least two members, one of which should be a woman, should be nominated to the assembly from Kashmiri migrant communities, and such members may be given powers at par with nominated members of the Puducherry assembly. It also suggested that the government give nominations to displaced people from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Many constituencies were renamed as well, and the commission said the decision was based on demands from the public and local representatives. “These name changes included naming Tangmarg-AC as Gulmarg-AC, Zoonimar-AC as Zaidibal-AC, Sonwar-AC as Lal Chowk-AC, Padder-AC as Padder-Nagseni-AC, Kathua North-AC as Jasrota-AC, Kathua South-AC as Kathua-AC, Khour-AC as Chhamb-AC, Mahore-AC as Gulabhgarh-AC, Darhal-AC as Budhal-AC,” the press statement said. The commission took into account “geographical features, means of communication, public convenience, contiguity of areas”.

Delimitation has been a contentious process in J&K, and the panel’s proposals met stiff resistance from members of the opposition parties. The former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party boycotted the process from the start, with the National Conference (NC) coming to the table last year but rejecting the Commission’s recommendations in its present state. NC members argued that the very constitutionality of the Commission comes under scrutiny as a case is already pending before the apex court. It has also stated that the process of seat sharing has been in a biased and unfair manner, adding that it will not be a signatory to the report. People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former member of legislative council Firdous Tak alleged that the panel acted as a “frontal organisation of the BJP rather than a constitutional body”.

“The commission acted as a frontal organisation of the BJP rather than a constitutional body. But we are sure that irrespective of the sinister designs the right wing organisation has for Jammu & Kashmir, it will face public anger and defeat whenever it goes to seek a mandate,” Tak added.

BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta welcomed the final draft.

“People in J&K waited for it since long with a hope that discrimination with them shall end forever. The panel has taken into consideration aspects such as area, topography, accessibility and population before preparing this report,” he said. “The opposition time and again has raised questions against the report. May I ask them that when delimitation was conducted in 1996, why did the government decide to freeze it till 2026?”. The opposition has always discriminated and misled people, he said.

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