New Delhi: The Delimitation Commission has proposed to increase the number of Assembly seats in Jammu region to 43 and in Kashmir Valley to 47 while 24 seats are expected to remain in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in a draft proposal discussed during its meeting in New Delhi on Monday with the associate members. Nine seats have been proposed for STs and seven for SCs in Jammu and Kashmir, in its first paper drafted by the Commission.
The commission on Monday called five Jammu and Kashmir MPs, including National Conference's (NC) Farooq Abdullah, M Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, BJP's spokesperson for J&K Jitendra Singh and BJP's Jugal Kishore Sharma. It has asked the associate members to submit their suggestions by the end of December.
"The Commission has come out with a document that is objectively prepared. All associated members, regardless of party, appreciated the work done by the Delimitation Commission. NC members were also satisfied by parameters followed by the Commission," Union Minister Jitendra Singh told the press after the conclave.
NC vice-president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah said the draft recommendation of the commission was unacceptable. "The draft recommendation of the J&K delimitation commission is unacceptable. The distribution of newly created assembly constituencies with 6 going to Jammu & only 1 to Kashmir is not justified by the data of the 2011 census," he tweeted.
"It is deeply disappointing that the commission appears to have allowed the political agenda of the BJP to dictate its recommendations rather than the data which should have been its only consideration. Contrary to the promised "scientific approach" it's a political approach," the NC leader added.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: "My apprehensions about the Delimitation Commission werent misplaced. They want to pitch people against each other by ignoring the population census & preposing 6 seats for one region & only one for Kashmir. This commision has been created simply to serve BJPs political interests by dividing people along religious & regional lines. The real game plan is to install a government in J&K which will legitimise the illegal and unconstitutional decisions of August 2019."
Delimitation is the act of redrawing the boundaries of an Assembly or Lok Sabha seat to represent changes in population over time. This exercise is carried out by a Delimitation Commission, whose orders have the force of law and cannot be questioned before any court. The objective is to redraw boundaries (based on the data of the last Census) in such a way so that the population under all seats, as far as practicable, is the same throughout the state. Aside from changing the limits of a constituency, the process may also result in changes in the number of seats in a state.
After the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status in 2019, the government set up the Delimitation Commission on March 6, 2020, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai.
Apart from Desai, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and J&K State Election Commissioner K K Sharma are the ex-officio members of the delimitation panel. The panel also has five associate members — National Conference MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Dr Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma of the BJP.
Although the Commission was tasked with finishing the delimitation in a year, it was granted a year's extension on March 4 this year after the panel members said they couldn't make much progress due to the Covid-induced lockdown across the country.
As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, the number of Assembly seats in J&K would increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to benefit the Jammu region.