More than two years after the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories in August 2019, a recent Delimitation Commission proposal has suggested adding six new legislative seats for Jammu and just one for Kashmir.
The proposal has led to an uproar among Kashmir-based political parties who have outrightly rejected the proposal claiming manipulation is being done in electoral constituencies so as to favour one party.
So what exactly is this delimitation exercise for Jammu and Kashmir? What does this recent draft proposal say? How much progress has the Delimitation Commission made since the announcement of bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories in August 2019, and what have been the reactions to this development?
What Is Delimitation?
The Election Commission of India describes it as the “act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province (state or Union Territory) having a legislative body.” The process may also entail a change in the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to different states, as well as in the number of Legislative Assembly seats for each state.
This is a process which is usually carried out every few years in order to ensure that every constituency has a similar number of voters.
The last nationwide delimitation exercise was carried out by the 2002 Delimitation Commission, set up after the 2001 census. The recommendations by the commission, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Kuldip Singh, were implemented in 2008. The Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies carved out by the 2002 commission will be in effect till 2026.
Jammu & Kashmir’s History With Delimitation So Far?
Under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, the number of constituencies in the Union Territory are to be raised from 107 to 114. But this also takes into account the 24 seats falling under Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). Excluding these 24 constituencies, the effective strength of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly would become 90, as compared to 83 earlier.
The last time a delimitation exercise took place in Jammu and Kashmi was in 1995, at a time when the state was under President’s Rule. Before that, delimitation on a provisional basis was done in 1993 by Governor Jagmohan when the state was divided into 87 Assembly constituencies.
The Farooq Abdullah government in 2002 had amended the state constitution, freezing delimitation till 2026, according to a PTI report. This brought J&K on par with other states of India, in terms of delimitation exercise.