Delimitation exercise kicks off in Jammu & Kashmir

The delimitation commission for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has kicked off the exercise by writing to all 20 District Commissioners (DC), seeking basic demographic, topographic information as well as the local administration’s impressions of political aspirations of the district.

Also Read | J&K Lieutenant Governor asks parties to cooperate with delimitation panel for early polls

According to government sources, the letter went out to all DCs in June first week, and while the commission asked for a response within two days, it was sent off, by all DCs, at the end of the week.

The commission was set up in February-March 2020 to delineate Assembly and parliamentary constituencies and given a year’s extension in March last. It is only after the completion of the delimitation exercise that elections for the Assembly can be held, although District Development Council (DDC) polls were held last year on earlier patterns and based on the 2011 census.

The 2002-2008 exercise

The then State of Jammu and Kashmir was kept out of the delimitation exercise when it was carried out in the rest of country (between 2002-2008), as delimitation of Assembly seats was under the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and its separate Representation of People Act. After becoming a Union Territory, the delimitation commission was constituted and asked to mark out Assembly and Parliament seats.

The commission, headed by Justice (retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai and comprising two other members, had called for a meeting in February 2021, where only two of its five associate members– Union Minister Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Singh, MP, attended, and others such as National Conference leaders Dr. Farooq Abdullah and Hasnain Masoodi, MP, and Mohammad Akbar Lone did not attend.

Also Read | ‘Delimitation should be based on 2031 Census’

The renewed push by the Central government for talks has raised hopes not only of early Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir but also of an eventual restoration of statehood, which was taken away under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, a reading down of Article 370 of the Constitution. For all this, the delimitation exercise, a laborious and sensitive process of carving out parliamentary and Assembly seats, has to be done. With this first communication, the delimitation commission has raised hopes that the process has begun its inevitable course.

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