J-K Delimitation: Unionists reject proposal, but willing to contest assembly polls

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The latest Delimitation Commission proposal that has proposed massive redrawing of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly and parliamentary constituencies has drawn flak from all the major regional political parties. However, they have expressed willingness to contest the polls under the new arrangements in the Union Territory (UT).

All regional political parties have unanimously rejected the delimitation panel draft report, terming it “unacceptable”. The People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam of political parties aimed at restoring special status of J-K, is convening a meeting on 13 February in Jammu to discuss the Commission’s report.

In Kashmir, at least two parliament and several assembly seats have either been redrawn or canceled in the latest Delimitation Commission draft proposal. The Commission in its report has proposed redrawing of the Anantnag Parliamentary seat by adding Rajouri and Poonch from the Pir Panchal region, while Pulwama, Tral, and some areas of Shopian, which formed part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, will now be part of the Srinagar Parliamentary seat. As per the J-K Reorganization Bill 2019, there shall be a Council of Ministers (CoM) consisting of not more than 10 percent of the total number of Members in the Legislative Assembly. The ministers shall hold office at the “pleasure” of the Lieutenant Governor.

National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah, who heads the PAGD, termed the panel’s report “illogical”.

“I am in the process of reading it [report] in detail.  But there is no political, administrative and social logic that justifies these recommendations,” Abdullah said.

Talking to The Kashmir Walla, NC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said that the party would file their objection to the panel on 14 February, and only after the final outcome, a call on the participation in the assembly polls would be decided.

“It is too early to say whether NC is going to participate in the polls or not. As of now, the party is focused on the Delimitation Commission’s proposal which is unacceptable,” Dar said.

However, in September 2021, NC president Farooq Abdullah said that the party would take part in assembly elections when the polls take place in J-K. “The NC will win and I am telling you this with authority that if polls are conducted in a free and fair manner, we will be the biggest party here,” the former CM had said while talking with the media.

In Srinagar, the assembly seats of Habba Kadal, a bastion of NC, has been canceled. Similarly, Budgam district, which had five assembly seats, was redrawn and merged with Baramulla Parliamentary constituency. In north Kashmir a new assembly seat, Kunzer, has been carved out.

Former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti Monday said that the Delimitation Commission proposal has not come as a surprise and it is another “onslaught on the democracy” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Talking with the media at the party headquarters, Mufti said that the PDP was always suspicious and the Delimitation Commission is basically the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) agenda.

PDP chief spokesperson Suhail Bukhari told The Kashmir Walla that though the party rejects the panel’s report it “is not giving a space to the communal elements in Kashmir politics”.

“We stand on our decision to fight the assembly elections. [PDP] are not after the government but to fill the free space which would otherwise be exploited by people who want to disintegrate Jammu and Kashmir,” Bukhari said.

On 24 October, union home minister Amit Shah during his three-day visit to the erstwhile state while laying out the “roadmap” for the J-K said that the statehood would be restored only after the completion of Delimitation Commission followed by assembly elections.

On 5 August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through presidential order scrapped the limited-autonomy status of Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

People’s Conference (PC) president Sajad Lone while reacting to the Commission’s proposal said the exercise was an attempt to disempower and disenfranchise the people of Kashmir. “Irrationalism is an ugly and a sad constant in the delimitation exercise,” he said and questioned the proposed formation of a parliamentary constituency by merging the two regions of South Kashmir and Rajouri.

Senior vice-president of Peoples Conference (PC) Abdul Gani Vakil said that they are in disagreement with the Delimitation Commission but would not hesitate to take part in the assembly elections. “We [PC] won’t let outsiders take over the reins of Kashmir. We are living in extreme conditions and only a regional political party can provide some relief to the people of Kashmir,” Vakil told The Kashmir Walla.  

The Apni Party, led by Altaf Bukhari, rejecting the proposals of the Delimitation Commission said the process adopted by the panel is “unfair and unscientific”. Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) General Secretary Rafi Ahmad Mir said that the party would meet on Wednesday to deliberate on the panel’s report and the future course of action.

“Not participating in the elections will allow outsiders to enter the political space. The people won’t be able to choose their candidate to mitigate their problems. So, it is likely that our party will participate in the polls,” Mir said. “However, the final decision will be taken after Wednesday’s deliberation.”

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