New Delhi: The three-member Jammu and Kashmir Boundary Commission, headed by (Retired) Justice Ranjana Desai, signed its final order redrawing the Union Territory Assembly constituencies on Thursday, a day before the end of his term, according to an official statement. The order detailing the extent of 90 assemblies and five parliamentary constituencies was published as a notice to the official gazette [PDF].
A copy of the decree and of the report, specifying the number of constituencies and their size, will be formally delivered to the government and will come into force from a date to be communicated by the government of the Union.
The undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir had 87 seats in the assembly, including four from the Ladakh region – which was transformed into a separate UT in August 2019. The Jammu region had 37 seats while Kashmir had 46. In its report, the Boundaries Commission proposed to increase the number of seats in J&K’s UT from 83 to 90 – including 43 from the Jammu region (an increase of six from the status quo) and 47 Kashmir (an increase of one). In addition, there are 24 seats in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK) that remain vacant, according to the Election Commission.
For the first time, nine of the 90 seats in the assembly have been proposed for the Scheduled Tribes. Of these, three will be in Kashmir (Gurez, Kangan, Kokernag) and six in Jammu (Gulabgarh, Rajouri, Budhal, Surannote, Mendhar, Thannamandi).
In addition, seven seats have been reserved for Scheduled Castes – Ramnagar, Kathua, Ramgarh, Bishnah, Suchetgarh, Marg and Akhnoor, all of which are in the Jammu region.
Of the five parliamentary seats, the major change is to the former Kashmir seat of Anantnag. The seat will henceforth be called Anantnag-Rajouri and will comprise 11 assembly segments from Kashmir and seven segments from Jammu.
Formed in March 2020, the panel was granted a one-year extension last year. In February, he was again granted a two-month extension to complete his task. His term was otherwise due to end on March 6. During the consultation process, the panel interacted with representatives of UT’s political parties, citizens, and civil society groups.
The panel includes Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and Jammu and Kashmir State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members. In addition, the panel has five associate members: National Conference MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi; Union Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh; and Jugal Kishore Sharma of the BJP.
Abullah and other NC MPs had all raised objections to some of the proposals – in particular the increased weight given to Jammu at the expense of Kashmir, which they say is out of step with the actual demographic balance between the two regions.
The Boundaries Commission was tasked with demarcating the Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies of UT of Jammu and Kashmir based on the 2011 Census and in accordance with the provisions of Part V of the 2019 Reorganization of the Jammu and Kashmir (34 of 2019) and the provisions of the Boundaries Act 2002 (33 of 2002).
“The Commission had decided that the constituencies would be delimited taking into account the administrative units i.e. districts, tehsils, circles of patwar, etc., as they existed on 15-06-2020 and the Commission had communicated to the administration of the UT, not to disrupt the administration units as existing on 15-06-2020 until the completion of the delimitation exercise in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Commission ensured that each Assembly constituency would be entirely contained within a district and that the lowest administrative units, i.e. Patwar circles (and Jammu Municipal Corporation wards), were not broken and were kept in a single Assembly constituency,” the Electoral Commission said. in a press release.
Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said in a press statement: “The Commission’s recommendation to add six Assembly seats for Jammu region and a single seat for Kashmir, smacks of its predetermined flawed assessment of the situation. Many observers had already suspected that the Commission would play the infamous game in tandem with the Union government!
(With PTI inputs)