May 9, 2022 7:28 pm

Time For Polls

WITH Delimitation Commission finalizing its report on the reconfiguration of assembly and parliamentary constituencies of J&K, the discourse is likely to shift to holding Assembly elections this year. The Commission has largely stayed true to its draft recommendations. The demand from some major political parties in the UT that the Commission should tweak its recommendations to allow what they wanted a fairer political representation of Kashmir Valley and Jammu division has generally been ignored.

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. But the final report hardly reflects any modification.

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. Throughout its term, the Commission has been dogged by controversy after it proposed an increase of seven assembly segments, six in Jammu and one in Kashmir division. It also recommended reserving sixteen constituencies, out of 90 assembly segments: 43 in the Jammu division and 47 in the Kashmir division. Political parties and civil society groups in Kashmir have voiced concern over what they see as a reduced political; representation of the Valley.

The number of Parliamentary constituencies, which was earlier three for Kashmir and two for Jammu, however, 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 has cleared 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. Last month, 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. Here’s looking forward to Assembly polls.

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