Recently, a commission set up by the Centre submitted its final report for the delimitation of Assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir.
What is delimitation?
Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country to represent changes in population.
Why was the commission set up?
- Delimitation became necessary when the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 increased the number of seats in the Assembly.
- The erstwhile J&K state had 111 seats — 46 in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu, and four in Ladakh — plus 24 seats reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
- When Ladakh was carved out as a Union Territory, J&K was left with 107 seats, including the 24 for PoK. The Reorganisation Act increased the seats to 114 — 90 for Jammu & Kashmir, besides the 24 reserved for PoK.
- The Delimitation Commission was set up on March 6, 2020 . Headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, it has the Chief Election Commissioner and J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer as members, and J&K’s five MPs as associate members. The time given to the panel, initially one year, was extended several times as the National Conference’s three MPs initially boycotted its proceedings.
- The first draft recommendations on January 20 suggested an increase of six Assembly seats for Jammu and one for Kashmir; on February 6, it submitted its second draft report.
Why has the exercise been controversial?
- Constituency boundaries are being redrawn only in J&K when delimitation for the rest of the country has been frozen until 2026. The last delimitation exercise in J&K was carried out in 1995.
- Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have been pointing out that the Delimitation Commission is mandated by the Reorganisation Act, which is subjudice.
What changes have been made?
- ASSEMBLY – The Commission has increased seven Assembly seats — six in Jammu (now 43 seats) and one in Kashmir (now 47). It has also made massive changes in the structure of the existing Assembly seats.
- LOK SABHA – The Commission has redrawn the boundaries of Anantnag and Jammu seats. Jammu’s Pir Panjal region, comprising Poonch and Rajouri districts and formerly part of Jammu parliamentary seat, has now been added to Anantnag seat in Kashmir. Also, a Shia-dominated region of Srinagar parliamentary constituency has been transferred to Baramulla constituency, also in the Valley.
- KASHMIRI PANDITS – The Commission has recommended “provision of at least two members from the community of Kashmiri Migrants (Kashmiri Hindus) in the Legislative Assembly. It has also recommended that Centre should consider giving representation in the J&K Legislative Assembly to the displaced persons from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, who migrated to Jammu after Partition”.
What do the changes in Assembly seats mean?
While the basis for delimitation is the 2011 Census, the changes mean that 44% of the population (Jammu) will vote in 48% of the seats, while the 56% living in Kashmir will vote in the remaining 52% of the seats. In the earlier set-up, Kashmir’s 56% had 55.4% of the seats and Jammu’s 43.8% had 44.5% of the seats.
What do the changes in parliamentary seats mean?
The restructuring of Anantnag and Jammu will change the influence of various demographic groups in these seats.