The delimitation commission – mandated to redraw boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir – has been given an extension of two months, the Union law ministry said in a Gazette notification on Monday.
The Union government had started the delimitation process of Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir on February 17, 2020. The term of the commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Desai was slated to end on March 6. It was given an extension of one year in 2021.
On February 6, the panel had submitted a draft report, in which it proposed the creation of seven new Assembly segments and the redrawing of the boundaries of some other constituencies. Six of the new constituencies are proposed to be in the Jammu, while one is in Kashmir.
With these changes, Jammu and Kashmir will have a total of 90 Assembly seats. The number of seats in the Jammu region will increase from 37 to 43, while in the Kashmir region, they will increase from 46 to 47. Another 24 seats will be reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
For the first time, the commission had also proposed to reserve nine seats for Scheduled Tribes. Seven seats have been proposed to be reserved for Scheduled Castes.
The delimitation process is a politically sensitive subject in Jammu and Kashmir because of fears that the Bharatiya Janata Party may use it to alter political outcomes in what was earlier India’s only Muslim-majority state.
Regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir had strongly opposed the recommendations after the commission submitted its draft report. On February 6, National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi had alleged that the party’s recommendations to the panel were “thrown to the wind” and that there was discrimination in the redrawing of boundaries.
On February 7, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti had said that the proposals of the delimitation commission constituted an attack on the Union Territory’s democracy. She had alleged that the panel was working according to the BJP’s agenda.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held six to eight months after the end of the delimitation process in the Union Territory.