Delimitation of Assembly seats in J&K could push polls beyond 2019

Delimitation of Assembly seats in J&K could push polls beyond 2019

The Union Home Ministry's recent "decision" to call for delimitation file from the Jammu and Kashmir Law Department has fuelled speculation on whether the upcoming State Assembly election would have to wait till fresh delimitation of Assembly seats in the state.

The Election Commission has said that the schedule for theAssembly election would be announced after the conclusion of Amarnath Yatrawhich begins on July 1 and will end on August 15.

Political circles in the state believe that if the plan tohold a fresh delimitation of Assembly seats is approved by the Governor, whounder President's Rule assumes all constitutional and executive powers in thestate, the holding of Assembly elections would be delayed further and could evenbe pushed to 2020.

If a fresh delimitation is ordered in the state, the processhas to be undertaken and completed by the Election Commission.

At present, the State Legislative Assembly, which is thelower house of the State's bicameral legislature, has 87 seats. Of these, 46are in the Kashmir Valley, 37 in the Jammu division and four in the Ladakhdivision.

Another 24 Assembly seats have been reserved for thoseterritorial constituencies of the state which are at present inPakistan-administered Kashmir, which according to the state's Constitution, isan integral part of Jammu and Kashmir.

There has been a growing demand from Jammu-centricmainstream political parties especially Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that thecurrent delimitation of Assembly seats in the State has caused damage to theadministrative, economic and political interests of Jammu and Ladakh divisions.

"The last delimitation of Assembly seats has been completelypro-Valley and that too by overlooking the interests of Jammu and Ladakh regions,"said Kavinder Gupta, former Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader.

The last delimitation of Assembly seats was done in J&Kin 1992-95.

The focus of the BJP leadership is that Jammu and Ladakhdivisions must get more Assembly seats through a fresh delimitation and it isgenerally believed that the Home Ministry calling for the delimitation filefrom the state law department is to "address the injustice done to Jammuand Ladakh regions of the state".

Kashmir-centric parties like National Conference, PeoplesDemocratic Party and others argue that fresh delimitation cannot be done inJ&K as it is due only after 2031 census like in the rest of the country.

The Farooq Abdullah-led state government in 2002 chose tofreeze delimitation until 2026 by amending Jammu and Kashmir Representation ofPeople Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.

Valley-centric political parties argue that this was doneonly to bring J&K at par with other Indian states where the nextdelimitation is due only after 2026.

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