Srinagar: All five Lok Sabha MPs from Jammu and Kashmir — three from National Conference and two from BJP — have been nominated as “associate members” of the Delimitation Commission to assist the panel in redrawing parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the newly-created union territory.
On 26 May, the Lok Sabha Speaker nominated the members on the panel from the two rival parties in the erstwhile state.
Srinagar MP and former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who was released from over seven months of detention in March, is among the nominated members. His colleagues, Anantnag MP Hasnain Masoodi and Baramulla MP Akbar Lone, are the other two NC leaders on the panel.
Union Minister and Udhampur MP Jitendra Singh and Jammu-Poonch MP Jugal Kishore Sharma are the two BJP leaders on the panel.
On 14 May, ThePrint had reported NC’s dilemma over participating in the exercise, given the party is, in-principle, against the J&K Reorganisation Act and all its consequences, including delimitation of the UT. Now, with three of its MPs as part of the exercise, the party is in a bind.
The development has come days after speculation arose about NC vice president and ex-Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah’s first visit to New Delhi in over nine months, of which he spent 232 days in detention under the controversial Public Safety Act.
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His visit this week came after his political advisor Tanvir Sadiq wrote an op-ed calling for “reconciliation” and raised speculation about the party’s intent of moving on from the issue of Article 370, which was scrapped in August 2019 stripping the erstwhile state of its special status.
However, Omar Abdullah has maintained that the party’s stand on scrapping of J&K’s special status remains unchanged.
Political activity in the Valley has largely been suspended after scores of politicians were detained in the aftermath of the Modi government’s move. The Abdullahs are the only top leadership of any regional party in J&K to be released even though NC’s senior most leader and general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar still remains in detention under the PSA.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti is also still under detention at her residence in Srinagar, and so is former minister and Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone. IAS officer turned politician Shah Faesal remains detained under PSA.
‘NC to come out with statement’
Speaking to ThePrint, Anantnag MP Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi said the party will meet Friday to decide the future course of action but he remains opposed to the idea of delimitation.
The party will come out with a statement later Friday, said another senior NC leader who didn’t wish to be named.
“I individually oppose the delimitation exercise. The exercise is consequence of a law which I have challenged in the Supreme Court. This delimitation exercise or the new domicile law have been given birth due to the Reorganisation Act and we challenge the Act itself,” Masoodi said.
Asked about speculation over Omar Abdullah’s Delhi visit being connected to the nomination of party MPs as associate members on the delimitation panel, Masoodi said the two are not connected.
“Our nomination has not been the outcome of any consultation. It is more of a statutory requirement. The law (Reorganisation Act) says that sitting members of the Lok Sabha have to be co-opted as associate member of the delimitation commission. There has been no consultation,” he said.
This is why all the five MPs from J&K have been nominated as associate members of the commission, Masoodi added.
ThePrint reached Omar Abdullah via messages seeking a comment but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
The Modi government had constituted the Delimitation Commission on 6 March, to be headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai. It was tasked to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland.
Section 60 of the J&K Reorganisation Act states the number of seats in the legislative assembly of J&K will be increased from 107 to 114. Out of these, 24 seats are reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The erstwhile state of J&K had 87 seats in the assembly and six in the Lok Sabha, which got reduced to 83 and five, respectively, after it was bifurcated to make Ladakh a separate UT.
So effectively, the assembly seats in J&K will go up from 83 to 90.
What PDP has to say
Asked to comment on the development, NC’s main opponent PDP said it was for the former to decide what its stance will be but the party’s internal rift is clear to all.
“Whatever their stance is, it is for them to decide. We have seen how in recent times there is an internal rift inside the NC. Their chief spokesperson also questioned the stance taken by the party. In the larger context, it is for NC to decide what will be their stance,” said PDP spokesperson Suhail Bukhari.
“As for the PDP, we have a principal political stand on the issue of illegal action taken on 5 August (scrapping of Article 370). Everything that has followed, legally speaking, whether it is domicile law or delimitation exercise, all this has been funneled through the illegal undemocratic act that took place on 5 August,” said Bukhari.
“We will resist all the decisions post 5 August, which are illegal, through peaceful means and democratically,” he added.
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