Sunday, September 14, 2008

No delimitation in JK till 2026

BJP, Congress, PP party to 2002 constitutional amendment

Naseer A Ganai

Srinagar, September 13: The BJP and the Panthers Party, which are demanding delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir, had supported the constitutional amendments brought by the National Conference government in 2002 halting the exercise till 2006.   

 The two Jammu-based parties have been demanding more seats in the state legislative assembly for Jammu on the assumption that it had more voter population than Kashmir. They have urged the Election Commission that elections should be held only after fresh delimitation.  
 Presently, Jammu has 37, Ladakh four and Kashmir 46 seats in the 87-member assembly. Two more seats are reserved for nominated members. Incidentally, the total strength of the lower house has been fixed at 111 which include 24 seats for Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The BJP had only one seat compared to Panthers Party’s four seats in the assembly before its dissolution on July 7 this year. 
 Constitutionally, the delimitation can’t be taken up in the state without an amendment in the state constitution and the Peoples Representation Act. In April 2002, the National Conference government had brought a bill to halt the delimitation process till 2026. The amendment says that the delimitation can be undertaken only after 2026 census.
 Interestingly, the bill was passed unanimously and the governor gave his assent on April 23, 2002. The BJP had five members in the assembly and Panthers Party one at that time. “They didn’t raise any voice against the bill and allowed it to pass unanimously. That means they were supporting the bill,” said senior NC leader and former minister, Abdul Rahim Rather. The amendment was brought in section 47, sub section 3 with its proviso saying explicitly it shall not be necessary to readjust the seats till 2026. The amendment has been brought into the Peoples Representation Act as well which governs the election process in the state. 
 Rather said if any government wanted delimitation, it had to bring in a constitution amendment bill and in case it was not passed, the government had to resign. He said the governor had no powers under section 92 to bring in the amendment. 
 Last year, the former chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had convened a meeting of all parties to seek consensus for delimitation. He had reportedly said that his government could go for delimitation by an executive order. However, he was reminded that he had to bring in a constitution amendment bill for the purpose. 
 However, some other politicians argued these demands were coming from areas and districts already enjoying the “administrative empowerment” and giving them more seats in the assembly would “dis-empower Kashmiris in particular, and Muslims in general, from a little political empowerment they have in the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.” 
 The veracity of the population figures reflected in the censuses in the past has also been questioned. “Even as the population of Kashmir valley is decidedly higher, the figures reflected in various censuses are far less than what these actually are,” the PDP general secretary, Nizamudin Bhat, said, adding “we totally dismiss Jammu’s claims that it has outnumbered the valley. By claiming they have higher population, an attempt is being made to change the character of state subjects.”  
 Senior politicians of both Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference said Kashmir had more population than Jammu and, in case of geographical areas, Pir Panchal region has three times more area than Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts put together. “If area and backwardness is the criterion for more seats, then why don’t politicians of these two and a half districts (erstwhile) support the Chenab Valley Hill Development Council for Pir Panchal region,” said a senior NC leader adding, “the communalists of Jammu have raised such unconstitutional demands in the past as a blackmailing tactics to suppress the genuine demands of the people of the state.”
 Analysts argue that delimitation is not done on the basis of voter population but on various factors, including the overall population of the area. Section 47 (1) of the state constitution says, “the legislative assembly shall consist of (one hundred and eleven) members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the state. And its section (2) says “for the purpose of sub-section (i) the state shall be divided into single member territorial constituencies by such authority and in such manner as the legislature may by law determine.” 
 They also argue that if the criterion of larger area were taken into consideration, then the erstwhile Doda district has larger area than that of the rest of Jammu region. On that plea, the erstwhile Doda district should get more seats. Moreover, the delimitation has taken place in the state in accordance with the delimitation commission report constituted during president’s rule. It has not taken place in several other state of India since 1950 when the constitution of India came into force
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