Delimitation Commission for UT of JK
A three-member Delimitation Commission has been set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to redraw the territorial limits of 90 Legislative Assembly seats in the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir. The first thing that should become clear to all is that it means no elections to the assembly for at least a year, or so.
May be the next assembly elections will be held next in the next summer, or during autumn months, October-November. Just as the last elections were held in the year 2014. Of course, this can happen only if the work of the Delimitation Commission is completed by June-July 2021.
As of now, we just know that the first step towards delimitation de novo has been taken. The name of one person, out of three, is also known to us all. Yet, it can take some time for the Delimitation Commission to be constituted fully. Two members, most likely a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a nominee of the UT government, are to be identified.
Several retired CJIs are around us for the government to choose from. Just retired Gogoi, Deepak Mishra, Keher, Tirath Singh Thakur are some of the possible names we can think of. Of course, there are some others too who may be considered for heading the Delimitation Commission.
Incidentally, we need to be clear that the Central government has hiked the total number of assembly segments in the newly created UT of JK by seven. Earlier, there were 87 assembly segments in the state of J&K which included Ladakh region. With Ladakh region becoming a separate UT, the four assembly segments of that region were not there, reducing the total number of segments to 83. However, with an increase of seven segments, the total number of assembly segments for which elections will be held stand at 90.
It can be pointed out here that raising the seats to 90 means it has the same number as Haryana. In contrast, however, Haryana has 10 Lok Sabha seats while the UT of JK has only five, half as compared the former. Interesting as it may sound, each Lok Sabha constituency of Haryana has 10 assembly segments.
The distribution of assembly segments in the state of J&K was very haphazard, uneven and defied logic. The Jammu region, spread over 26,000 square kilometres, had only two Lok Sabha segments. The much smaller Kashmir region, spread over 16,000 square kilometres, had three Lok Sabha segments.
The Jammu Lok Sabha segment has 20 assembly segments in it and is spread over 7,400 square kilometres. The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat has barely 15 assembly constituencies and its geographical spread is only 3,599 square kilometres. In terms of voters, the Jammu Lok Sabha segment is largest in JK, having over 18 lakh voters. The number of voters in Srinagar Lok Sabha segment is around 11 lakh. How can this uneven distribution of both geographical area and voters be considered equitable?
Some comparisons of assembly constituencies of the UT can also be done readily. These comparisons will perhaps help us understand the angularities, uneven distribution of geographical spread and voters in various constituencies.
In the Kashmir region, Khanyar assembly segment of Srinagar district had only 51,000 voters in November 2014. In the far-flung Kupwara assembly segment, and still farther Lolab segment, the number of voters was over 100,000! In the Jammu region, the Jammu East assembly segment had only 53,000 voters and the Gandhinagar constituency had over 1,68,000 voters. How is it just and equitable that Gandhinagar has over 1,15,000 more voters than Jammu East constituency?
These angularities will have to be addressed by the new Delimitation Commission which has just been set up. The new delimitation of assembly constituencies will have to be done in an equitable manner. It is just not possible to have an equal number of voters in all constituencies. The urban constituencies will most likely have a higher number of voters and the far-flung segments will have lesser number of voters. That can be said without any doubts and some constituencies may vanish altogether. As new ones, with new geographical boundaries, are carved out.