An internal meeting of the delimitation committee entrusted with redrawing parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the area on Wednesday resolved to visit the union territory on July 6, a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Jammu and Kashmir politicians. The Prime Minister had emphasised that the delimitation process must be completed soon in order for polls to be held in the union area.
The three-member delimitation commission, led by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Desai, will finalise its ideas after consulting with political parties. A full meeting of the panel, including associate members like Lok Sabha MPs from Jammu and Kashmir, is expected soon. On Wednesday, a date for such a meeting will be set.
The National Conference, which has won all three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir Valley, had already decided to remain away from the commission’s proceedings, claiming that there was no need to redraw the constituencies at this time. However, there are signs that the party is reconsidering its position, and its president, Farooq Abdullah, has lately been given authority to determine whether or not to join in the commission’s proceedings.
During the June 24 meeting, the prime minister stated that the ongoing delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir must be completed promptly so that elections can be held to establish elected governments that will help the state continue on its development path.
“Our priority is to enhance grassroots democracy in JK,” the prime minister said in a series of tweets after a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with 14 political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir. “Delimitation must be completed quickly so that polls can be held and JK can pick a government that will support the state’s development trajectory.”
The delimitation exercise has become more pressing as the Centre has expressed interest in holding early assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The polls could be held in the next six to nine months, according to reports.
According to them, the delimitation panel would assess the work done thus far, including meetings held last week with all deputy commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir on redesigning current assembly constituencies and carving out seven new seats early this month. On June 23, information was solicited from the deputy commissioners on how to make the assembly seats more geographically compact.
Justice (retd) Ranjana Desai will preside over a meeting of the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday, which will be attended by senior EC officials.
Desai was appointed to the position in February of last year. The three-member committee was unable to complete its work within the one-year deadline and has been offered a one-year extension.
The Chief Election Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu and Kashmir are the other members of the commission. The number of assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir will increase from 83 to 90 following the delimitation exercise.
Twenty-four seats in the Assembly remain vacant since they are located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).