STATE TIMES NEWS JAMMU: The issue of delimitation of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir has again surfaced with BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav describing the freeze ordered by National Conference Government years ago, as illegal. The issue surfaces at a time when Kashmir-centric political parties are seeking early elections to the Legislative Assembly. This in itself is a shift in the political discourse of the State. The reported statement of BJP’s points-man in Jammu and Kashmir on a national television channel is seen as a move to accomplish the party’s mission of having a Chief Minister from the Jammu region. So far, the sensitive State has been governed by the CMs from the Valley (with exception of Ghulam Nabi Azad) that too from a particular religion. This is because of the illogical and unfair share of seats allocated to the three regions-46 to the Kashmir Valley, 37 to Jammu and four to Ladakh regions. Jammu feels discriminated notwithstanding its size of population and vastness of the landmass that called for more seats than Kashmir. Jammu has been seeking delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies, which has, however, been blocked by the Kashmir-centric rulers. Ordinarily, the delimitation of the constituencies is required to be undertaken after every ten years but in Jammu and Kashmir, a blanket ban was imposed till 2026, ostensibly to deprive the Jammu region of its legitimate right, as also to maintain Kashmir hegemony on the political landscape. In 2002, the then National Conference government froze delimitation until 2026 by amending Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir. The amended Section 47(3) provided “that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State and the division of the State into territorial constituencies under this sub-section”. Ironically, three of the Jammu based legislators including Ashok Khajuria and R S Chib had supported the move of National Conference Government. The freeze is being seen as a grave injustice; especially as the total population of Jammu Division was 5,378,538 of which Dogras were the dominant group comprising 62.55 per cent of the population according to 2011 population. Jammu has 25.93 per cent of the area and 42.89 per cent of the population. On the contrary, the population of the Valley then was 6,888,475 with 96.40 per cent Muslims. Though it has 15.73 per cent of the state’s area, it holds 54.93 per cent of the population.
In 2011, the population of Ladakh was 2,74,289 with an area of 58.33 per cent of the state. Of these 46.40 per cent are Muslims, 12.11 per cent Hindus and 39.67 per cent Buddhist.
The proposed delimitation also envisages reservation of seats for Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddis and Sippis as also rotational change of existing Scheduled Caste constituencies of Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban (separate).
The move to undertake delimitation of constituencies can take place by amending the relevant section of the Constitution and deleting proviso that barred the setting up of a Delimitation Commission. This will eventually require a concurrence of Parliament within six months after passing such an Ordinance. Given numbers in the Lok Sabha, the NDA can get the ball rolling to assuage the aspirations of Jammu.
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