Polls to J&K may take longer

Delimitation Commission to be set up soon to redraw constituencies

Before the government went ahead with bifurcating the state into Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh, there were indications that the Assembly elections will be held in the state in October before winter sets in. (AFP File Photo)

The elections to Jammu and Kashmir Assembly may not happen in October as speculated earlier, with the Narendra Modi government mulling the option of setting up a Delimitation Commission soon to redraw boundaries of constituencies in the proposed union territory.

Before the government went ahead with bifurcating the state into Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh, there were indications that the Assembly elections will be held in the state in October before winter sets in.

However, with the Parliament passing the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill and government deciding on October 31 as the appointed day for the Union Territories to come into being, sources say that the elections are not likely to be held soon.

At present, Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has 87 seats, including four seats from Ladakh region, barring 24 seats identified in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

According to the reorganisation of the state, Jammu and Kashmir will have an Assembly while Ladakh will not have one. Once the new Union Territories come into being, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will have only 83 seats, including six reserved seats.

Officials said there is no bar in conducting elections to the Assembly but they point to a practical problem. If elections are held now, they will have to conduct voting in Ladakh too and there is the question of accomodating the four MLAs from Ladakh after October 31.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, the strength of the Assembly could be increased by seven. Sources said once the Delimitation Commission is set up by the government, it may take at least four to six months to complete the exercise.

The delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir has been on the ruling BJP’s agenda for some time. At present, Kashmir valley has 46 seats and Jammu region 36 while four are in Ladakh.

There are allegations that BJP wants to alter the composition of the state, with Jammu region having more seats, as it would enable non-Muslims from Jammu region to become chief ministers. The National Conference and PDP are said to have upper hand in the Valley while BJP has significant hold in the Jammu region.

As per the Act, the six existing Lok Sabha constituencies in the state will be distributed 5:1 to Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh.

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