Delimitation Commission likely to get a year’s extension, J&K polls could be further delayed

New Delhi: The Delimitation Commission constituted by the Modi government last year to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland is likely to get an extension of another year, ThePrint has learnt.

This means assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir could be further deferred as the elections cannot happen until the delimitation exercise is concluded.

According to sources, J&K’s State Election Commissioner K.K. Sharma was appointed on 30 October last year, following which he was busy with the District Development Council (DDC) polls in the UT that concluded last December.

“Effectively, he could start work with the commission only in January this year, so there is groundwork that needs to be completed,” an official familiar with the development told ThePrint.

“One can expect the commission to conclude its work in the coming months, and that is why a year-long extension is being considered,” he added.

When ThePrint reached Election Commission of India’s spokesperson through phone calls, she said she would get back.

The elections in J&K have been due since the alliance between the BJP and PDP fell apart in June 2018, after which the erstwhile state was brought under governor’s rule.

While it was expected that polls in J&K could be held simultaneously with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission ruled that out, citing security concerns.

Months after the Lok Sabha elections, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 was brought in, mandating delimitation in the newly-carved out UT before polls could be conducted.

On Independence Day last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir after the delimitation process in the union territory was over.

Before that, in 2019, after the Centre scrapped Article 370, BJP national president J.P. Nadda had said that elections in J&K will be held only after the delimitation of seats.

“Jammu and Kashmir has been given the status of a union territory, but it will also have a legislature. Elections will be held. But before that there will be delimitation of constituencies,” he had said.

NC MPs boycotted commission’s meeting last week

The government had on 6 March 2020 constituted the Delimitation Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai.

While the commission had an earlier deadline of one year, which will lapse on 5 March this year, it only held its first meeting with associate members — elected representatives from Jammu and Kashmir — last week.

The five associate members for J&K are National Conference MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi — all from the Kashmir division; Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Dr Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma of the BJP from the Jammu division.

In the meeting held last week, only the two BJP MPs were present, while those from the NC boycotted it.

In a letter to Delimitation Commission chairperson Justice Desai (retired) last week, the three NC MPs said, in their view, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 was “palpably unconstitutional”, and till the time the Supreme Court adjudicates on the constitutional validity of the Act, no decisions emanating from the Act should be implemented.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, the number of seats in the union territory’s assembly will be increased from 107 to 114.

Out of these, 24 seats are in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Thus, effectively, the number of assembly seats for which elections can be held will go up from 83 to 90. (The Print)

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