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Delimitation in J&K

Published: 27th Dec, 2021

Context

More than two years after the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories in August 2019, a recent Delimitation Commission proposal has suggested adding six new legislative seats for Jammu and just one for Kashmir.

About

What is Delimitation?

  • The Election Commission of India describes it as the “act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province (state or Union Territory) having a legislative body.”
  • The process may also entail a change in the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to different states, as well as in the number of Legislative Assembly seats for each state.
  • This is a process which is usually carried out every few years in order to ensure that every constituency has a similar number of voters.
  • The last nationwide delimitation exercise was carried out by the 2002 Delimitation Commission, set up after the 2001 census.

Background

  • Under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, the number of constituencies in the Union Territory (UT) is to be raised from 107 to 114.
    • But this also takes into account the 24 seats falling under Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK).
  • Excluding these 24 constituencies, the effective strength of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly would become 90, as compared to 83 earlier.
  • To carry out the exercise in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of its special status revocation, a Delimitation Commission was set up in March 2020.
  • The last time a delimitation exercise took place in Jammu and Kashmi was in 1995, at a time when the state was under President's Rule.
  • Before that, delimitation on a provisional basis was done in 1993 by Governor Jagmohan when the state was divided into 87 Assembly constituencies.

What is in the proposal?

  • The commission has proposed six seats for Jammu and only one for Kashmir.
  • The proposal would take the number of assembly seats in Jammu to 43 from existing the 37, and to 47 in Kashmir from 46.
    • The panel has proposed to increase one seat each in Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Doda, Kishtwar and Rajouri districts in the Jammu region and Kupwara in the Kashmir Valley.
    • The Kathua, Samba and Udhampur segments will be Hindu-majority constituencies. As per census figures, Kathua has an 87.61% Hindu population, while Samba and Udhampur have 86.33% and 88.12% population from the community.
    • Kishtwar, Doda and Rajouri districts too have also sizeable Hindu population (between 34% and 45%).
  • It has proposed the reservation of seven seats for Scheduled Castes and nine for Scheduled Tribes. It has also proposed the reservation of 24 seats for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • The Delimitation Commission comprises Justice Desai, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra, State Election Commissioner KK Sharma and Chief Electoral Officer J&K Hridesh Kumar.
  • The newly created Union Territory of J&K was the only region in the country delimitation exercise is being carried out.

Reaction from locals

  • The proposal has led to an uproar among Kashmir-based political parties who have outrightly rejected the proposal claiming manipulation is being done in electoral constituencies so as to favour one party.
  • The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in Jammu and Kashmir has rejected the draft proposal of the Delimitation Commission saying it has ignored basic criteria of the population to distribute seats. 
  • The recommendation is viewed as an “assault on political centrality and supremacy” of Kashmir in J&K’s politics and a move to disempower Kashmiris.
  • This proposal is unacceptable by the locals as Kashmir deserves more seats than Jammu as per population.

The 2011 census showed Kashmir has 15 lakh more population than Jammu - 68.8 lakh vs 53.5 lakh.

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