Srinagar: The Delimitation Commission set up by the Centre to redraw Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies, for now, only in Jammu and Kashmir said on Friday that the responsibility assigned to it was somewhat convoluted and not merely a mathematical game. It, however, said the exercise it has taken up will be “very transparent” and asked people, political parties, and other stakeholders in the Union territory to thrust aside all fears and apprehension.
It also announced that the delimitation will be done based on the 2011 census and the final draft will be prepared after taking all demands and recommendations into account. Also, the final draft will be put out in the public domain for objections and debate.
Chief election commissioner Sushil Chandra, a member of the panel led by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, said while addressing a press conference in Jammu that the delimitation will be on the basis of the 2011 census as per Section 62 of J&K Reorganisation Act 2019. He said 24 seats of the Legislative Assembly reserved for Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir may stay vacant and this area excluded in delimiting the territorial constituency as provided under Part V of this law.
He said the first full-fledged delimitation commission for J&K was set up in 1981, which could submit its recommendation after 14 years in 1995. This, he said, was based on the 1981 census and thus no delimitation has taken place in J&K since.
He said that in 1995 J&K had only 12 districts, which has now risen to 20. Likewise, the number of tehsils has gone up from 58 to 270, whereas constituency boundaries in as many as 12 districts are extended beyond the district’s limit. “There is an overlap of districts as well as the tehsils in constituencies. All such facts indicate the public faces inconvenience due to such anomalies,” he asserted.
The commission, which also includes deputy election commissioner Chandra Bhushan and J&K election commissioner K.K. Sharma, was on a four-day hectic visit of the UT, when it met numerous delegations and representatives of political parties, select social and ethnic groups and officials.
The commission accelerated its work after an all-party meeting on J&K chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 24. It is expected to submit its report before its extended term ends on March 5, 2022.
Mr Chandra said: “Taking all the demands and recommendations into account, a draft will be prepared and put in the public domain for their comments. After seeing all the comments, the final draft (on delimitation exercise) will be prepared.”
The People’s Democratic Party has refused to meet the commission and said it doesn’t want to be “a part of an exercise the outcome of which is widely believed to be pre-planned”. It also that the very existence of this commission is questionable as the Constitution was specifically amended (84th Amendment) in 2002, not to have inter-state delimitation of constituencies till 2026. It also alleged that singling out J&K for such an exercise and the haste with which it is being carried out are an indication of the government’s malevolence of disempowering the people of the (erstwhile) state further.”
Responding to this, the CEC said: “If something was decided earlier then the commission would not have come here”. He added: “Nothing has been pre-planned so far. Before starting the exercise, we want to have the views of all persons. These apprehensions in the mind of any person, if at all, should go away.”
The visiting commission members hinted at giving “due representation” to people belonging to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes in J&K in a future Assembly.
Mr Chandra, an ex-officio member of the Delimitation Commission, said: “In the past four days, the commission met 290 groups in Srinagar, Pahalgam, Kishtwar and Jammu. There has been an overwhelming response, and people travelled from long distances to meet us. We listened to every delegation patiently.” He asserted: “The delimitation process is a very complex issue and not just mere arithmetic.”