A draft proposal that has suggested six new legislative seats for Jammu and only one for Kashmir has triggered a political row in J&K, with local parties calling it an attempt to skew the balance of power in the erstwhile state.
The draft by the Centre’s Delimitation Commission was distributed among five MPs from J&K who are associate members of the body during its meeting in New Delhi on Monday and was rejected by all political parties in Kashmir who have termed it biased and unacceptable, NDTV reported.
National Conference president and MP Farooq Abdullah, who attended the meeting, reportedly said the party will respond to the draft proposal via a formal communique on December 31.
Population is meant to be the sole criteria for redrawing Assembly seats and, according to the 2011 Census, Kashmir has 15 lakh more people with a total population of 68.8 lakh against Jammu’s 53.5 lakh.
In the erstwhile assembly, Jammu province had 37 seats, Kashmir 46 and Ladakh 4. Now, going by the new draft proposal, Kashmir will have 47 seats and Jammu 43.
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.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) December 20, 2021
Once the delimitation exercise carves out new constituencies, seats in Kashmir will have a population ratio of 1.46 lakh against 1.25 lakh in Jammu province.
The Delimitation Commission – which was set up last year – is an independent body and the executive and political parties cannot interfere in its functioning. It is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and includes the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner and state election commissioners. Five MPs from Jammu and Kashmir are associate members, but their recommendations are not binding on the commission.
Three National Conference MPs, including Farooq Abdullah, had earlier boycotted the lone meeting of the Delimitation Commission.
Until J&K lost its special status in 2019, the delimitation of its Lok Sabha seats was governed by the Constitution of India and that of Assembly seats, by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
After the scrapping of Article 370, both Lok Sabha and Assembly seats are to be demarcated afresh. According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the new legislature in J&K will have 90 seats, seven more than the previous assembly.