ONCE again, the centre has made it clear that the statehood to Kashmir will be restored at “an appropriate time.” This time, the assurance was given by the union minister of state for home Nityanand Rai in a written reply in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. He was replying to a question whether there is a timeline to grant statehood to the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The minister also said that the decision to schedule elections is the prerogative of the Election Commission of India.
This is the umpteenth time now since the centre has used the phrase “appropriate time” for the restoration of statehood to Kashmir. This actually means there is no definite timeline that the union government is willing to follow on this. The centre is understood to not be in favour of restoring statehood until it has completed the process of fresh delimitation of Assembly seats. And to this end, a delimitation commission has been working for the last one and a half years and it is due to present its draft report later this month.
The exercise is expected to change the electoral game in the Valley. The commission set up by the government is expected to enhance the seats for Jammu division making it politically at par with Kashmir. Should that happen, a Jammu-based party like the BJP would have more political weight in the future J&K Assembly. And even if a Kashmir-based party were to form or lead a future government, it would have little maneuvering space to carry out its agenda or overturn the laws passed by the New Delhi backed administration over the last two years.
Going forward, the situation looks very uncertain. It is unlikely that space for normal political activity will open up anytime soon. Though the Delimitation Commission has invited parliament members of National Conference to its meeting in New Delhi on December 20 and the NC is likely to attend, this may not change much. The centre, on the other hand, is in no mood to engage with Kashmiri establishment parties after their meeting with the prime minister few months ago. The harsh truth is that if at all, the centre will engage on its terms and offer little accommodation to the demands of the major regional parties like the National Conference and the PDP. There is also little hope that these parties would be allowed to publicly raise their issues. They will have no option but to wait and watch. For now, it will be interesting to see what the Delimitation Commission has in store for us.
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