Delimitation Panel Order Redraws Assembly Seats Map, Jammu Gains Weight, Kashmir Loses

The commission has proposed increasing the number of seats in the UT from 83 to 90. Kashmir's weight will fall from 55% of the seats in old assembly (minus Ladakh) to 52%.

New Delhi: The three-member Delimitation Commission on Jammu and Kashmir, headed by Justice (retd) Ranjana Desai, signed its final order redrawing the Union territory’s assembly constituencies on Thursday, a day before its term was to end, an official release said. The order detailing extent of 90 assembly and five parliamentary constituencies has been issued as a gazette notification [PDF].

A copy of the order and report, detailing the number of constituencies and their size, will be formally submitted to the government and will come into effect from a date to be notified by the Union government.

The undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir had 87 assembly seats, of which four were from the Ladakh region – which was made into a separate UT in August 2019. The Jammu region had 37 seats while Kashmir had 46. In its report, the delimitation commission has proposed increasing the number of seats in the UT of J&K from 83 to 90 – of which 43 will from the Jammu region (an increase of six from the status quo) and 47 from Kashmir (an increase of one). Besides, there are 24 seats in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) that continue to remain vacant, according to the Election Commission.

For the first time, nine seats out of the assembly’s 90 have been proposed for Scheduled Tribes. Of these, three will be in Kashmir (Gurez, Kangan, Kokernag) and six in Jammu (Gulabgarh, Rajouri, Budhal, Surankote, Mendhar, Thannamandi).

In addition seven seats have been reserved for Scheduled Castes – Ramnagar, Kathua, Ramgarh, Bishnah, Suchetgarh, Marg and Akhnoor, all of which are in the Jammu region.

Of the five parliamentary seats, the major change concerns the erstwhile Kashmir seat of Anantnag. The seat will now be called Anantnag-Rajouri and will comprise 11 assembly segments from Kashmir and seven segments from Jammu.

Formed in March 2020, the panel was granted a one-year extension last year. In February, it was again given a two-month extension to complete its task. Its term was to otherwise end on March 6. During the consultative process, the panel interacted with representatives of political parties, citizens and civil society groups in the UT.

The panel has Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and the state election commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir as its ex-officio members. Additionally, the panel has five associate members: National Conference MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi; Union minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh; and Jugal Kishore Sharma of the BJP.

Abullah and other NC MPs had all raised objections to some of the proposals – especially the greater weight given to Jammu at the expense of Kashmir, which they say is out of sync with the actual demographic balance between the two regions.

The Delimitation Commission was given the responsibility of delimiting the Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the 2011 Census and in accordance with the provisions of Part-V of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 (34 of 2019) and the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002 (33 of 2002).

“The Commission had decided that constituencies shall be delimited having regard to the administrative units i.e. Districts, Tehsils, Patwar Circles, etc, as in existence on 15-06-2020 and the Commission had communicated to the UT administration, not to disturb the administrative units as existing as on 15-06-2020 till the completion of the delimitation exercise in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.

It was ensured by the Commission that every Assembly Constituency shall be contained entirely in one district and the lowest administrative units i.e. Patwar Circles (and Wards in Jammu Municipal Corporation) were not broken and were kept in a single Assembly Constituency,” the Election Commission said in a press statement.

Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said in a press statement, “The Commission’s recommendation of adding six assembly seats to Jammu region and only one seat to Kashmir, smacks of its pre-determined erroneous assessment of the situation. Many observers had already suspected that the Commission would play the nefarious game in tandem with the Union government!”

(With PTI inputs)