J&K Delimitation Commission’s recommendations set to create electoral autocracy in region, say analysts

While Valley’s mainstream political parties said the report amounts to ‘gerrymandering’ and will lead to ‘disempowerment’, analysts and observers said it will create ‘electoral autocracy’ in region

Representative photo (Lal Chowk, Srinagar)
Representative photo (Lal Chowk, Srinagar)
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Gulzar Bhat

The Delimitation Commission formed by the Centre to remap the poll constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir submitted its report containing the final recommendations on Thursday.

While the mainstream political parties in the Valley said the report amounted to ‘gerrymandering’ and will lead to disempowerment, analysts and observers said it is all set to create ‘electoral autocracy’ in the region.

The Commission has increased six assembly seats in Jammu division and one seat in Kashmir division. It has also reserved nine seats for Scheduled Tribes, of which six are in Jammu and three in Kashmir.

It has also suggested reserving two seats for the Kashmiri Pandit community

The Commission, headed by Justice Ranjana Desai (retd), was working on redrawing the poll constituencies in the Union Territory for nearly two years.

It was set up after the PM Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre read down the special constitutional provision for the state of Jammu and Kashmir and broke it into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had declared the exercise as a pre-condition to hold the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under the Center's rule since 2018.

The exercise has been mired in controversy ever since the Commission's first draft proposal was made public. The political parties in the Valley alleged that the poll constituencies were being remapped to give an electoral benefit to the BJP.

They have said that the Commission had shown little respect for the population, which is a cardinal parameter in redrawing poll constituencies.

The population of Jammu and Kashmir region, as per the 2011 Census, is 1.25 crore. Of this, 68.8 lakh people live in Kashmir while 53.5 lakh belong to Jammu region.

Soon after the Commission announced submission of its final recommendations on Thursday, National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said that the entire exercise carried out by it was constitutionally suspect.

“The Commission has ignored the cardinal parameter of population. People deserved to get equal rights and representation but unfortunately it has not happened,” he said.

In a tweet, the party said that no amount of 'gerrymandering' would change the ground reality.

CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said that the exercise was bound to disempower people in the long run and would change the electoral demography of the region.

In a statement, People's Conference, which is accused by its opponents of doing the BJP's bidding in the Valley, said that it was a repeat of past discrimination against Kashmir and this time the amount of disempowerment was high.

The J&K Delimitation Commission's final report has retained most of its earlier recommendations despite facing severe criticism by the political parties in Kashmir. It went ahead with merging Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu division with South Kashmir's Anantang parliamentary seat.

This was seen as a bizarre move by analysts considering that there is no geographical connectivity between the two regions. They are over 500 km apart via Jammu. The shortest route between them is through Mughal road, which remains closed for at least six months due to heavy snowfall.

On the one hand, the government does much tom-tomming about rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, but the reservation of two seats for them will only contribute to the chasm between the two communities, analysts said. Instead of uniting the people, the move will empower communalism, they felt.

A Valley-based political observer, who declined to be quoted, said that the Commission’s report will pave the way for ‘electoral autocracy’ in Jammu and Kashmir as it is tilted towards a particular political party.

“In the other parts of the country, it is majoritarianism, but in Jammu and Kashmir, it is minoritarianism — the domination of the minority community,” he said.

He added that the move was bound to lead to disempowerment of the majority community in the Valley.

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    Published: 05 May 2022, 10:16 PM