The Delimitation Commission has shared the second draft proposal with its members, triggering widespread political reaction in Jammu & Kashmir. Most of the regional parties have rejected it outrightly. Hakeem Irfan Rashid explains some of the work done by the panel since its formation in 2020 and the political reaction to the proposals.
When was the Delimitation Commission set up?
In March 2020, the government of India set up a Delimitation Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, to complete the delimitation exercise within a year and later the deadline was extended till March 2022.
What did the commission do?
The commission visited J&K twice in 2021 and conducted several meetings with various stakeholders both in Kashmir and Jammu divisions. The National Conference, whose three Lok Sabha members from Kashmir are commission’s associate members along with two BJP Lok Sabha members from Jammu, initially boycotted the meetings but participated in the last meeting of the commission held on December 20, 2021.
Where does the process stand now?
The commission shared its first draft with associate members in the meeting held on December 20. It proposed six additional assembly constituencies in Jammu division and one in Kashmir. This tally took the total number of seats in Kashmir to 47 and in Jammu to 43. The commission also proposed nine seats for Scheduled Tribes (STs) and seven seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs). The regional parties, including NC and the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, rejected the draft and decided to protest as well, which the J&K administration didn’t allow. The commission shared its second draft with the associate members on February 4 evening, which gave a detailed description of how the assembly and parliamentary constituencies have been redrawn across the Union Territory.
What did the commission propose?
The Delimitation Commission has changed the maps of all 90 assembly constituencies across the UT and renamed 28 new constituencies besides reconfiguring or deleting 19 existing constituencies from the list of the last delimitation conducted in 1995. The commission has reserved nine seats for STs —six in Jammu division and three in Kashmir Division and seven for SCs in the Jammu division.
Changes in Jammu
In Jammu division, six new assembly seats have been created in Kathua, Samba, Rajouri, Doda, Udhampur and Kishtwar districts. The commission has also named one constituency as Shri Mata Vaishno Devi. It comprises areas of Katra and parts of Reasi. The boundaries of two parliamentary constituencies in Jammu – Jammu-Poonch and Udhampur Doda – have been redrawn and the entire Poonch district and parts of Rajouri, which falls in Jammu division, have been added to Anantnag parliamentary constituency, which otherwise fell entirely in Kashmir division.
Changes in Kashmir
In Kashmir division, one assembly constituency, Trehgam, has been created in the frontier district of Kupwara. Besides, some assembly constituencies have been deleted like Amira Kadal and Habba Kadal in Srinagar district while nomenclature of the constituencies has been changed as well. The Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir will now be Anantnag-Rajouri in southern side and in central Kashmir, Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency will now include five districts instead of earlier three districts. The Lok Sabha constituency in northern Kashmir will include some parts of central Kashmir as well.
What do the political parties in Kashmir say about the draft proposal?
The redrawing of the constituencies has also shattered the existing strongholds of several politicians and former legislators from across the spectrum. However, the regional parties in Kashmir claim that the whole exercise has been done to help the BJP and its allies in electoral politics and ensure the dominance of Jammu division in any future electoral arrangement.
The National Conference, whose president Farooq Abdullah is a Lok Sabha member from Srinagar and heads the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration as well, has rejected the second draft proposal of the commission and claimed that none of their suggestions and concerns were incorporated by the commission. Abdullah said that the draft defies any logic and there are no political, administrative, and social logic that justifies these recommendations. The PAGD has decided to convene a meeting on February 13 to discuss the draft report of the commission and future course of action.
The People’s Democratic Party has said that the commission has proved itself as a frontal organisation of the BJP and sole objective of the body was to ensure backdoor entry of BJP and its shadow organisations to the legislative assembly of J&K. The J&K People’s Conference said that the delimitation draft report seems to be an exercise in disruption and irrationalism is an ugly and a sad constant in the delimitation exercise.