Delimitation Commission yet to unveil J&K draft plan

Almost a year on, Delimitation Commission yet to unveil J&K draft proposal

The Delimitation Commission's panel has to come up with a draft proposal to seek suggestions and objections from the people before finalizing the process

A boat is seen with snow-covered mountains in the background at Dal lake in Srinagar on January 24, 2021. Credit: AFP Photo

The Delimitation Commission set up by the Central government to redraw the parliamentary and assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to unveil a draft proposal even as its head will complete her term in the first week of March.

The Commission's panel, constituted by the Union Ministry for Law and Justice on 6 March, 2020, has been mandated to delimit the constituencies of the Union Territory in accordance with the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 and Delimitation Act, 2002.

Going by the notification issued by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice with regard to the setting up of the panel, its head will complete her one-year term on March 5, 2021. “The appointment of Justice (Retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai shall be for a period of one year from the publication of this notification in the official gazette or till further orders, whichever is earlier,” reads the notification.

According to the law governing delimitation, the panel has to come up with the draft proposal to seek suggestions and objections from the people before finalizing the process. The panel, however, has not held any meeting in almost one year with its associate members from J&K who were nominated by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

In May last year, Birla had nominated three National Conference (NC) Members of Parliament, Farooq Abdullah, Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone and the BJP’s Jugal Kishore Sharma and Union minister Jitendra Singh as the panel’s associate members from J&K.

However, the NC had said that its three MPs would not accept their positions as part of the Delimitation Commission since that would be “tantamount to accepting the events of 5th August 2019”—when the special status of the erstwhile state was abrogated.

Later, to expedite the process of delimitation, the Commission had said the formal deliberation with associate members would start soon. In September last year, officials had said that the Commission had completed data collection and was preparing a framework to carve out assembly constituencies on the basis of the 2011 census.

The erstwhile state of J&K had 87 seats in the assembly and six in the Parliament, which got reduced to 83 and five respectively, after it was bifurcated and Ladakh was made a separate UT. So effectively, the seats will go up from 83 to 90 for J&K.

People and politicians in Kashmir view the exercise as a move to tilt the balance of power towards Jammu, by increasing the assembly seats in Jammu. However, in Jammu, it is being regarded as a move to correct Kashmir’s historical ‘dominance’ over Jammu.