Monday, 5 December, 2022
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J&K’s delimitation was Modi govt’s top priority 5 months ago. Now it’s nowhere in sight

BJP knows that unless Kashmir’s dominance over Jammu ends inside J&K assembly, anything Modi govt does will fall short of Jammu voters’ expectations.

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The logical step for the BJP after scrapping the special status of Kashmir is said to be delimitation of constituencies and redrawing the political map of the region. But now it appears that it can’t be done anytime soon.

Ever since Narendra Modi assumed office for the second term, with BJP chief Amit Shah as the Home Minister, Jammu and Kashmir has been his government’s focus. The BJP has used J&K’s controversial special category status to drum up support across India. The issue of alleged discrimination of the Hindu-majority Jammu region by the Muslim-majority Kashmir has remained the centrepiece of the BJP’s, and its earlier avatar Jan Sangh’s, political tune for decades.

It finally culminated in the passage of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 in Parliament, which resulted in changes to the special category status and bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

But the BJP wasn’t done. It decided to end Kashmir’s political dominance over Jammu by redrawing the political map of the erstwhile state via delimitation.

Section 62 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 mentions a fresh delimitation exercise to redraw J&K’s parliamentary and assembly constituencies.

There were indications that fresh assembly election would be held only after the delimitation exercise is complete. The BJP and the RSS leadership had assumed this exercise would also take care of the thorny issue of Kashmir’s dominance over Jammu.

However, months after J&K’s bifurcation, there is no movement on the ground to start the delimitation exercise. In fact, there seems to be a clear move to delay the exercise until the 2021 Census is over.

And here’s what could be driving the Modi government’s stance on the delimitation exercise.

Also read: BJP has no competitor in Kashmir right now. But it’s still unable to create new politics

Kashmir would still get more seats

As per Section 62(2) of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, any delimitation exercise would have to be conducted as per the “Census held in the year 2011”.

At that time, Jammu and Kashmir was India’s only Muslim-majority state – 68.31 per cent Muslims and 28.44 per cent Hindus.

But more than religion, the bigger issue is the regional imbalance – of the total 1.25 crore population, Kashmir is home to 68.94 lakh people while Jammu has 53.50 lakh people. As many as 17 of the 22 districts in Jammu and Kashmir are Muslim-majority.

In the previous 87-member House of undivided J&K, Kashmir had 46 legislators while Jammu region had 37 MLAs. And, since any delimitation would have to be as per the 2011 Census, there won’t be much change in the composition of the new assembly.

The BJP knows very well that unless Kashmir’s dominance over Jammu ends inside the assembly, anything that the Modi government does would fall short of the expectations of its vote bank in Jammu region.

Also read: Kashmiris will accept Modi-Shah deal if govt assures no demographic change, the biggest fear

Fresh delimitation may be legally impermissible

In 2002, then Farooq Abdullah government in J&K amended Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957 to put a freeze on any delimitation exercise until 2026.

With the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 facing a challenge before a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, any move to recast the structure of the assembly could fall afoul of the judiciary and ultimately be struck down.

In any case, a decision to start delimitation before 2026 would be open to judicial scrutiny.

Census can’t be done early

The next nationwide census is scheduled for 2021. It may not be prudent to conduct a census only for Jammu and Kashmir at this point.

Also, delimitation is a long-drawn process, which would require immense manpower and resources. If the Modi government decides to hold fresh elections in the next six months or so, the delimitation exercise can’t be initiated.

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

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  1. There is only one way out. Do what Israel is doing in West Bank or China is doing in in Tibet, Honkong and it’s Muslim majority state. And amend the constitution to keep the happiness in JK outside the SC justification.

  2. Given the history of Jammu and Kashmir over the past seven decades, it is in India’s interest to end the dominance of Kashmir valley in the assembly if and when J&K becomes a state again. We are probably looking at a decade or longer before returning to statehood. That should be enough time to encourage large scale migration into the Jammu region to tilt the population scale in favor of Jammu. There is no need to hurry with the delimitation process, let’s wait a couple of decades for favorable conditions.

    • “That should be enough time to encourage large scale migration into the Jammu region to tilt the population scale in favor of Jammu” – Any such move to bring outsiders into Jammu would be fiercely resisted not only by the Kashmiris in the valley, BUT ALSO THE HINDUS IN JAMMU! Moreover, to reassure the Kashmiris, the government has said that no demographic changes would be done.

      Many states wouldn’t like such demographic changes. They don’t want immigrant workers from other states, and want job reservations for their own workers. States like Nagaland not only don’t want the outsiders to settle in there, they don’t want the outsiders to buy property there. They even want their own flag and constitution!

  3. J & K is – perhaps we should say, Used to be – one state where the normal rules of politics were not applied. Everyone understood this state was special, which formation ruled it was less important than keeping things tranquil. In its unceasing quest for political dominion, the ruling party has kept the pressure of politicking on. At one time, there was the fantasy that a Hindu CM could be installed. Now, of course, barring stony, underpopulated Ladakh, there is just one Union Territory. So it comes down to electing municipal councillors.

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