Kashmir based politicians reject the draft recommendations, accuse commission of following BJP’s political agenda
The J&K Delimitation Commission headed by retired Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and comprising Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and State Election Commissioner K K Sharma has virtually opened a pandoras’ box by proposing 6 additional seats for Jammu, 1 for Kashmir valley while reserving 16 constituencies for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes ahead of the Assembly polls in J&K.
According to a handout issued by the Secretary Delimitation Commission K N Bhar, Chandra Bhushan Kumar, senior deputy Election Commissioner gave a detailed presentation to the associate members on the work done so far before proposing the new seat arrangement on Monday.
Three Lok Sabha members of the NC, including party president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, attended the commission meeting for the first time. Two BJP MPs, including Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, were also present.
Later, the commission is expected to share the draft recommendations in the public domain ahead of finalizing the draft.
If the same seat arrangement is approved by the commission in its final draft then it would mean in the new JK Assembly the Jammu division will have 43 seats and Kashmir 47.
Before the Abrogation of Article 370, the seat difference between the two distinct regions stood at 9. Now the gap is expected to be narrowed down to four only.
How Kashmir based parties reacted to the proposal
The proposed recommendations invited sharp reactions from several mainstream political parties in the Kashmir valley as they outrightly rejected the same while accusing the commission of serving BJP’s political interests.
Abdullah, who is also the chairman of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), said after the meeting that he would brief the grouping as well as his party colleagues of the deliberations of the commission. The PAGD leaders are scheduled to meet in Jammu on December 21 at the residence of Dr. Abdullah.
“We attended the meeting for the first time because we wanted the voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to be heard. The meeting took place in a cordial manner and we all were explained the method adopted for coming to the conclusion,” Abdullah said.
“I will discuss with my senior party leaders before sending our views to the commission. We have also not been told about the seats that they are reserving for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” he said.
On the other hand, his son and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah launched a scathing attack on the commission.
Omar in a tweet said it was deeply disappointing that the commission appears to have allowed the political agenda of the BJP to dictate its recommendations rather than data which should have been its only consideration.
“Contrary to the promised ‘scientific approach, it’s a political approach,” he said.
He said the draft recommendation of the Delimitation Commission “is unacceptable. The distribution of newly created assembly constituencies with six going to Jammu and only one to Kashmir is not justified by the data of the 2011 census.”
MOS PMO, Dr. Jitendra Singh who also attended the meeting set the record straight by claiming “The Commission has come out with a document that is objectively prepared. All associated members regardless of parties appreciated work done by the Delimitation Commission. NC members were also satisfied by parameters followed by the Commission” stated Dr. Singh.
In response, the Twitter handle of the JKNC posted a tweet claiming Dr. Singh made a misleading statement before the media. “Misrepresenting and distorting the facts with malicious intention! Very misleading statement. We have clearly expressed our resentment over the draft of the Delimitation Commission, the biased process of seat-sharing. The party will NOT be a signatory to this report”.
The Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, headed by former minister Altaf Bukhari, also rejected the proposal of the commission.
“This is outright unacceptable to us. Apni Party demands a fair delimitation exercise without any bias, taking population and districts as the base. We strongly demand the Government of India to intervene,” it said.
PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the commission has been “created simply to serve BJP’s political interests by dividing people along religious and regional lines. The real game plan is to install a government in JK which will legitimize the illegal and unconstitutional decisions of August 2019.”
She was referring to the government’s decisions of abrogating Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcating the erstwhile state into union territories.
“My apprehensions about the Delimitation Commission weren’t misplaced. They want to pitch people against each other by ignoring the population census and proposing six seats for one region and only one for Kashmir,” she said.
People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone said the recommendations of the commission were totally unacceptable. “They reek of bias. What a shock for those who believe in democracy,” he tweeted.
According to the press statement, the commission has proposed nine seats for STs and seven for SCs in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Delimitation Commission was set up in February 2020 after the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill in Parliament in August 2019.
NC leaders facing heat for attending the meeting in Kashmir valley
Soon after the Delimitation Commission was announced by the government of India, Jammu & Kashmir National Conference had rejected the idea and had also boycotted its first meeting
None other than Dr. Farooq Abdullah had claimed, “This delimitation commission is a product of the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, which JKNC is challenging in and outside Supreme Court. Participating in this delimitation Commission will be tantamount to accepting the events of 5 August 2019, which the NC is unwilling to do”.
The party pointed out that according to the separate constitution of J&K allowed under Article 370, the constituencies were to be delimited in 2026 with the rest of the country. It said an amendment to the J&K Constitution to this effect was passed by the state assembly, and that the regional parties, the Congress, and the BJP had voted for it.
“Therefore, the constitution of the delimitation commission is unwarranted,” the NC added
Now after it decided to join the meeting in New Delhi on Monday Peoples Conference Chairman Sajad Lone hit out at the NC for “multiple speak”.
“Please at least have the courtesy to show even some pretense and explain how it was tantamount to endorsement then and not now. Digital world. Digital proof. ‘Chit bhi meri patt be meri‘ won’t work. The era of Multiple speeches in Srinagar and Delhi— in multiple places is over (sic),” Lone wrote on Twitter.
“These are the utterances of Dr. Farooq Abdullah. What changed between then and now for the NC to now participate. Is it not tantamount to endorsing August 5 decisions now. There is a limit on a monopoly on morality,” the Peoples Conference tweeted referring to Abdullah’s remarks that the party will attend the meeting.
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