Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought cooperation of political parties in Jammu and Kashmir in a delimitation exercise, as a first step towards holding of elections in the Union territory, the delimitation commission on Wednesday announced a four-day visit to the UT.
The commission will be visiting J&K from July 6 to July 9, and interact with political parties, public representatives and state government officials over redrawing of boundaries of existing Assembly seats. The decision was taken after a meeting of the Commission chaired by Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai, and attended by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra.
At the meeting with J&K leaders last week, his first since the scrapping of special status, the PM had assured that the Centre was committed to reviving the democratic process in the UT through Assembly polls as early as possible, and so was keen that the delimitation exercise be completed at the soonest. After the meeting, former CM and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah had told The Indian Express, “The PM has talked about an early delimitation process. That means they are looking at following that up with Assembly elections.”
According to a source, on Wednesday the Commission also reviewed the progress made so far, including the consultations held last week with J&K district commissioners on the restructuring of the constituencies and carving out of seven new seats. It is learned that a common problem flagged by district commissioners was that many seats were spread over two to three tehsils, creating administrative issues during elections. “The associate members of the Delimitation Commission represent just two political parties (the National Conference and BJP). The political parties of the UT are major stakeholders and are well versed with the geographical spread of seats and problems associated with the current boundaries. Hence, it was felt that they should be consulted,” said a source.
“A number of representations have also been received on various aspects concerning delimitation from civil societies and members of public from the Union Territory. The Commission has already taken note of all such suggestions and directed that these may be deliberated further in the context of ground realities concerning delimitation,” the Commission said in a statement.
The last delimitation exercise in J&K was carried out in 1995. It was based on the 1981 Census, when the erstwhile state was governed by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act. The Delimitation Commission has held meetings on the data, map of districts and constituencies in relation to the 2011 Census.
NC members Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi had stayed away from the last meeting called by the Commission of all associate members, in February. Only Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma of BJP had given their feedback. But the NC has recently indicated it is open for a dialogue, giving the Delimitation Commission hope that it will be part of the next meeting whenever it is scheduled.