The grand aim of the whole exercise of delimitation is to establish a new J&K scheme where the State Government stops being totally commanded by the Kashmir Region.
Salaam to Amit Shah and Narendra Modi! By deciding to set up a totally unexpected Delimitation Commission for Jammu & Kashmir, the daring duo would seem to have caught more than one golden bird with just one swing of the lasso.
A Delimitation exercise redraws the numerical strength of an electoral constituency on the basis of geographical-cum-population parameters; it also determines the number of seats to be reserved for Scheduled Castes. The size of the electorate and the representatives to be elected from a constituency are thus decided by the Delimitation authority which is independent and whose decisions cannot be challenged in a court.
It says a lot that the National Conference Party of the Abdullah dynasty is against the Delimitation in J&K. And so is another dynastic party called the PDP of the Mufti clan.
The present delimitation of constituencies has been done on the basis of 2001 Census under the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002. That law requires a Commission to be constituted for readjusting the representation of the territorial constituencies of the House of the People and the Legislative Assemblies of the Indian States as well as the delimitation of the Constituencies. This effectively excludes interference by political parties for their own advantage; this crucial factor in delimiting constituencies has, since 1996, been adopted in Kashmir also.
However, J&K has shown an erratic, autocratic stand in the matter.
After accession to India on 26th October 1947, the State Constituent Assembly was constituted under the 1939 Constitution, but Sheikh Abdullah’s administration arbitrarily carved out 30 seats for Jammu region and 43 seats for Kashmir region and 2 seats for Ladakh region. This regional disparity became entrenched thereafter: 46 seats for Kashmir region, 37 for Jammu and 4 for Ladakh.
Add another queer factor. The J&K State Constitution provided for 24 seats to be added to the State Assembly after Pakistan Occupied Kashmir area (Azad Kashmir) was added to the suzerainty of J&K State.
In 1995 in extremely difficult circumstances; it was done under the Justice (retd) KK Gupta Commission. The worst came in 2002 when the last time a delimitation exercise took place in the state when it was under President’s Rule. Incidentally, the Constitution provides for delimitation every 10 years, the next delimitation of assembly constituencies should have logically taken place in 2005. However, in 2002, the Farooq Abdullah government chose to freeze delimitation until 2026 by amending the Jammu & Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir.
It is abundantly clear that J&K State needs a Delimitation exercise very badly. For a quarter of a century, no recasting of seats and constituencies has been done. All of it even as
(i) the Displaced Persons from Pakistan have returned to the J&K State and living in Jammu as refugees without any representation of any kind in the State;
(ii) Gujjars, Bakerwals, and Gaddies in the State were given Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe status in 1991 and today form 11 percent of the population but have no political reservation;
(iii) The considerable growing imbalance emerging out of a composition of various constituencies would continue.
(iv) The co-relation of population and land occupied separately in Jammu and Kashmir Divisions seems to warrant a higher number of seats for Jammu, thereby reducing the existing difference of 9 seats allocated to Kashmir Division (46) and Jammu (37).
It says a lot that the National Conference Party of the Abdullah dynasty is against the Delimitation in J&K. And so is another dynastic party called the PDP of the Mufti clan. A host of local political outfits have, however, welcomed the move. You may like to read those views in “Daily Excelsior” newspaper of J&K.
A larger share of seats to the Jammu Region may well be the goal of the BJP-led government of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in moving so ingeniously to secure a Delimitation exercise. And they are doing it without violating any law. In particular, one cannot but admire the way they used the present President’s Rule in J&K to legally facilitate that exercise. Similarly, getting the Election Commission of India to postpone the scheduled Assembly elections in J&K will give time for the Delimitation exercise to be duly completed.
The grand aim of the whole exercise seems clear. Establish a new J&K scheme where the State Government stops being totally commanded by the Kashmir Region. And instead, have a Government which will help realize the dream of millions of Indians. That dream is for the State Government to give its approval for abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A; simultaneously, the essence of democracy will finally descend on Jammu, on the Jammu & Kashmir State, and on the entire Indian nation.
Yes, Kashmir could yet become the Paradise it was divined to be.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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