|Early Times Report|
JAMMU, Feb 5: The BJP had in 2014 through its Vision Document held out a commitment that it, if came into power, will meet the age-old demand of the people of Jammu province for adequate representation in the assembly by appointing a delimitation commission. It did come into power and became part of the PDP-led coalition government. It remained in power between March 1, 2015 and June 19, 2018. In between, it did nothing whatsoever to honour the commitment. Rather, it danced to the tunes of Kashmir-based and Valley-centric PDP and further hurt the interests of the people of Jammu province to keep the Muftis in good humour.
On November 21, 2018, the J&K Gopvernor, SP Malik, dissolved the assembly. 2 days before, the state was brought under the President's rule as the Governor's rule came to an end on December 19. J&K can remain under the Governor's rule for a maximum period of 6 months. The imposition of Governor's rule/President's rule was taken by the people of Jammu to mean that the government would set up delimitation commission and redraw the assembly constituencies so that the people of Jammu province got their due share of representation in the legislative assembly based on the laid down criteria - land area, accessibility, nature of terrain and population/voters. However, nothing till date has happened. Nor is there any possibility of the authorities setting up a delimitation commission. The indifference attitude of the powers-that-be to this legitimate and democratic demand has created widespread resentment in the Jammu province.
It would be only desirable for the Governor to consider fresh delimitation of constituencies and appoint a Delimitation Commission to remove the regional disparity long suffered by Jammu province, and also provide representation to all reserved categories in the State Assembly. It is pertinent to note here that the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir, enacted in 1957, was based on the Maharaja's Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir of 1939, which was still in force. After accession to India, the State Constituent Assembly was constituted under the 1939 Constitution, but Sheikh Abdullah's administration arbitrarily carved out 30 seats for Jammu region and 43 seats for Kashmir region and two seats for Ladakh region. This regional disparity became entrenched thereafter: Kashmir (46), Jammu (37) and Ladakh (four).
The last delimitation exercise in the State took place under challenging circumstances and was finally accomplished by the Justice (retd) KK Gupta Commission in 1995, when the State was under President's rule. As the Constitution provides for delimitation every 10 years, the next delimitation of Assembly constituencies should have taken place in 2005. However, in 2002, the National Conference Government froze delimitation until 2026 by amending the Jammu & Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir. The amended Section 47(3) provided "that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State and the division of the State into territorial constituencies under this sub-section". Paradoxically, the BJP had supported this anti-Jammu amendment.
This means the next delimitation can only take place after Census 2031, unless the Governor intervenes and rectifies this irregularity. It is pertinent that owing to the disturbed conditions in the Kashmir region from 1990 onwards, there has been a huge migration towards Jammu province, an exodus not limited to the Kashmiri Pandits. The concomitant rise in the population of Jammu does not reflect in Census 2011, which lacks credibility among large sections of the people.