Noting that the government’s priority is to “strengthen grassroots democracy” in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that assembly polls can take place and an elected government gives strength to the development trajectory.
The Prime Minister, who interacted with leaders from Jammu and Kashmir at a meeting convened by him, said that the meeting was an important step in the ongoing efforts towards a developed and progressive region where all-around growth is furthered. This was the first such meeting since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August 2019.
What Is Delimitation?
The term delimitation refers to the redrawing of boundaries of an assembly or Lok Sabha constituency which ultimately reflects the changes to the population of a region. The process is carried out by the Delimitation Commission of India, which is an independent body and the executive and political parties cannot interfere in its functioning.
The main task of the commission is redrawing the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent census. The Commission is a powerful and independent body whose orders cannot be challenged in any court of law. The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the respective State Legislative Assemblies. However, modifications are not permitted.
The Commission is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and includes the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner and state election commissioners. Five MPs from Jammu and Kashmir are associate members, but their recommendations are not binding on the Commission.
What does it mean for Jammu and Kashmir?
The delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir holds greater importance as after the Centre abrogated Article 370 and stripped the erstwhile state of its special status, both Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies are to be demarcated under the Constitution of India. The government had set up a fresh delimitation commission last year to take care of the process in the Valley. However, the process got an extension in wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the new legislature in the erstwhile state will have 90 assembly seats after the fresh demarcation of assembly constituencies. Earlier, the number of assemblies in Jammu and Kashmir stood at 83. Before 2019, when Kashmir held its specials status, the strength of the J-K assembly was 87, including 4 seats in Ladakh. However, the state was bifurcated into two Union Territories — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Last delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir:
The last delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir was carried out in 1995 which was based on the 1981 census as there was no census conducted in the erstwhile state in 1991. After the census of 2001, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a law putting a hold on delimitation exercise till June 26.
Meanwhile, until 2019, when the state was bir=furcated into two UTs, the delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seats was governed by the Constitution of India and that of assembly seats, by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
Why it created a controversy?
The delimitation exercise created controversy after some groups in Jammu opposed the exercise on the basis of the 2011 census. The opposition came as in the 2011 census, the population of Kashmir is 68 lakh while Jammu’s population was 53 lakh. TRhis means that Kashmir will get a larger share of seats in terms of the population ratio. Of 87 seats, 46 are in Kashmir and 37 in Jammu.
Meanwhile, after PM Modi stressed that delimitation should be the top priority for Kashmir in order to carry out elections, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah opposed the moves and said that it was not needed.
“Why has Jammu and Kashmir been singled out for delimitation? We said delimitation was not needed. In other states, delimitation will be taken up in 2026, why has Jammu and Kashmir been singled out? If August 5 (2019) was to unite the state with India, then delimitation process defeats the purpose as we are being singled out,” Omar Abdullah said.