The delimitation exercise has formally begun in Jammu and Kashmir but has been faced with a deep political cynicism following the abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile state and its downgrading into two Union Territories in 2019.
Barely hours before the panel began hearing the views of political parties, Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) decided against meeting the Delimitation Commission.
In a strongly worded letter to the Commission, the party questioned its constitution and intent.
“Outcome of the delimitation exercise is pre-planned. The process is aimed at realising the political vision of a particular party. Delimitation is part of the process to disempower the people of J&K,” the party said in its letter to the Commission.
Parties that met the Commission, including the National Conference, have raised similar apprehensions.
PDP said they want the Commission to stick to its legal mandate – redrawing boundaries of Assembly seats based on the census conducted in 2011. Any other consideration will compromise the mandate and the credibility of the process.
“We told them people have no faith in institutions and Delhi. They should try to restore the people’s faith and ensure a transparent exercise. The criteria of Delimitation should be based on the population,” Nasir Sogami of the Provincial President National Conference said.
The delimitation exercise has come into focus less than two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened an all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir and urged them to join the proceedings.
The exercise is meant to pave way for Assembly elections in the Union Territory that was carved out after stripping the erstwhile state of its special status and statehood.
The Congress and the regional parties have been demanding that statehood be restored before elections are held. The Congress also questioned the exercise in J&K when the delimitation process has been stalled across the country till 2026.
“The Prime minister is talking about one constitution, one law and one nation. But they are doing the exact opposite in Jammu and Kashmir. Delimitation in the country will take place after 2026. Why is it happening here in 2021,” J&K Congress Chief GA Mir said.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the new legislature in the Union Territory will have 90 seats and delimitation of these constituencies will be carried out based on the 2011 census.
The population of J&K according to the 2011 census is 1.22 crore, that of Kashmir and Jammu provinces is 68.88 lakh and 53.78 lakhs respectively.
Despite Kashmir’s larger population, there are fears of gerrymandering. PDP boycotting the meet and other opposition parties expressing apprehension about the delimitation process only explain the deep distrust about the exercise in Jammu and Kashmir.