As politics over redrawing of Assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir is heating up, the Delimitation Commission is likely to put its draft report on 90 Assembly constituencies in the union territory (UT) in the public domain by the second week of March.
The deadline for filing suggestions/objections for associate members, who happen to be five Parliament Members from J&K, is March 4. Currently, only BJP and National Conference, the two political parties which have representation in the Delimitation Commission, are eligible for filing claims and objections before the Panel.
However, once the report is put in the public domain, most likely in the second week of March, all other political parties, organisations, and even individuals will be able to give suggestions/objections to the panel.
Sources said it is expected that by the May 6 deadline, the panel will submit a final report after settling claims and objections received for its draft report during the 42-day period during which the Commission could also visit the UT for public hearings.
In the draft proposal discussed during its meeting in New Delhi with five associate members, the Commission had increased the number of Assembly seats in the Jammu region from 37 to 43 while in Kashmir, the tally had been increased from 46 to 47.
Political parties in Kashmir in one voice have rejected the Commission’s proposal to increase the number of Assembly seats in the Jammu region by six against one in the Valley.
The Commission, headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai, was mandated to delimit the constituencies of the UT in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 and Delimitation Act, 2002, by the Union Ministry for Law and Justice on March 6, 2020.
However, with little work in a year, its term was extended by another year in March 2021. Again the term of the panel was extended by two months till May 6, 2022 as the final report could not be submitted in time.
The ongoing delimitation exercise has taken center stage in J&K’s frozen politics as both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have several times in the past stated that Assembly polls in the UT will be held only after the completion of delimitation.
Assembly seats in J&K were earlier delimited in 1963, 1973 and 1995. The last delimitation exercise was conducted in J&K under President’s rule in 1995 by the retired Justice K.K. Gupta Commission. The next exercise was due in 2005, but in 2002, the then state government chose to freeze delimitation until 2026. The decision was in line with the pan-India freeze on the delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies till the first census after 2026.
However, as the August 5, 2019 decision annulled J&K’s constitution, the freeze on delimitation till 2026 also became irrelevant. In fact, J&K Reorganisation Act, which came into force on October 31, 2019, mandates the delimitation of constituencies in the UT.
The elections in J&K have been due since the PDP-BJP alliance fell apart in June 2018 after which the erstwhile state was brought under central rule.
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