New Delhi: The Delimitation Commission, which redraws constituency boundaries, held its first meeting on Jammu and Kashmir Thursday, even though three of the five ‘associate members’ from the union territory chose not to attend.
The five associate members for J&K are National Conference MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, all from the Kashmir division; and Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Dr Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma of the BJP from the Jammu division. Only the latter two attended Thursday’s meeting.
The commission is learnt to have used 2011 Census data for delimiting constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, and sources said the two BJP leaders told the commission that it should not only keep population as a matrix for determining the constituencies in J&K, but geographical considerations for Jammu should also be taken into account.
“We apprised the associate members of the methodologies we have used thus far,” a member of the Delimitation Commission told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
Why NC MPs didn’t attend
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, the number of seats in the union territory’s assembly will be increased from 107 to 114. Out of these, 24 seats are in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Thus, effectively, the number of assembly seats for which elections can be held will go up from 83 to 90.
The Centre, in March last year, had constituted the Delimitation Commission to redraw the constituencies in J&K, besides some states in the Northeast.
The move triggered fears in the Kashmir Valley that more seats would be given to the Jammu region, which will influence who rules J&K as and when elections are conducted.
In a letter to Delimitation Commission chairperson Justice (Retd) Ranjan Prakash Desai, the three NC MPs said, in their view, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 was “palpably unconstitutional”.
“We are of the opinion that as vires of constitutional validity of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, and CO (Constitution Order) 272 and 27 are under judicial scrutiny… the principle of constitutional propriety demands that the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, should await Hon’ble Supreme Court,” they wrote.
The commission member quoted above said: “Going ahead, we will again call all the associate members for a meeting, but whether or not they come is not something we can do much about. It would be good if the members come and put their concerns in front of the commission… we will try to accommodate all the suggestions before taking a final call.”