Polls This Year?

DELIMITATION Commission has reportedly finalized its report on the reconfiguration of assembly and parliamentary constituencies of J&K and may submit its final report to the Union Law Ministry by May 2. The Commission is expected to incorporate certain suggestions and slightly tweak its recommendations in response to some objections. But at the same time, the Commission reportedly is expected to largely stick to its earlier draft proposals.

Earlier in April,  the Commission had held separate public sittings in Jammu and Srinagar and heard objections and suggestions from delegations of people, political parties and civil society members to its draft proposals. Following this,  the Commission had indicated that it would include some of the suggestions in its final report.

Headed by Justice (retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai, the Commission was set up on March 6, 2020 with one year term. However in the wake of COVID pandemic, its term was extended on March 6, 2021 for another one year. The Commission has proposed an increase of seven assembly segments, six in Jammu and one in Kashmir division. It has palso roposed reserving sixteen constituencies. out of 90 assembly segments: 43 in the Jammu division and  47 in the Kashmir division.

The number of Parliamentary constituencies, which was earlier three for Kashmir and two for Jammu hasn’t been changed.- although their boundaries have been altered and in the case of one constituency, South Kashmir, much more drastically: it now straddles Kashmir and Jammu divisions, extending right from Anantnag in Kashmir to Rajouri in Jammu.

The submission of the Commission’s report will clear the decks for Assembly elections in the Union Territory. There is a possibility that J&K could see elections later this year. The political parties are already getting into an election mode. The National Conference Working President Omar Abdullah has made a case for the PAGD jointly contesting the polls to keep away, what he said, “the BJP and its B and C teams.” The PDP led by Mehbooba Mufti also appears to be favourable to this proposal.

Elections, in turn, will shift the discourse towards the grant of statehood.  However, the centre has already made it clear that statehood would be granted only after an elected government is formed, staying short of giving a timeframe. So, this could take a longer time than expected. For now, however, the people would be happy if elections are held at the earliest. An elected government would be in a better position to understand and address the local grievances and issues.

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