The re-organisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories after the abrogation of Article 370 that allowed separate constitutions for the state has reopened the question on delimitation.
The erstwhile state would have remained without delimitation until 2031 had the central government not decided to make a fresh delimitation for the UT. The fresh delimitation was necessary because of the changes in the UT and inclusion of many new people including West Pakistani refugees as the residents of the UT. Earlier West Pakistani refugees could vote in the Parliamentary polls but not in assembly elections.
Back in 2008 when the fourth delimitation was carried out there were few states that were left out and Jammu-Kashmir was one of them. The argument that was put forward in this regard was the separate constitution of J&K has set-up its own delimitation commission. The National delimitation commission can’t look into it.
But since the separate constitution has now been removed, the national delimitation can look into the matter. But it is not necessary to conduct delimitation just before the census and that too when the Coronavirus has spread in the country.
The central government is fully prepared to hold fresh delimitation in J&K but the question that arises is why the center is in a hurry to conduct the exercise in J&K because there are hardly any efforts made to conduct delimitation in other states that were left out. Every person’s vote is equal and important in all the parliamentary constituencies in the country and all the assembly constituencies within the states so the delimitation process with ready laid exceptions should be conducted in other states as well.
Currently, the average size of the electorate in the assembly constituencies in the Kashmir region is 81,778 voters while in the Jammu region the number is 91,593. The necessity to carry out the delimitation process in UT is to remove the uneven size of the constituency in terms of the size of the electorate which takes place due to the uneven rise of population in different regions of J&K.
The population of urban cities grows faster as people from villages move into the cities for employment. The delimitation commission redraws the boundaries of the constituencies in such a way that at the time of delimitation all the assembly constituencies are of more or less equal size.
In recent years, the population growth in the Jammu region has grown at a much faster pace as compared to the Kashmir region by looking at the pattern of migration. The fresh delimitation is expected to change the number of assembly seats in both regions.
Out of 87 assembly constituencies in J&K, 46 are in the Kashmir region, 37 in the Jammu region, and only 4 constituencies within the Ladakh region. At present, the Jammu region has 10,000 more voters than the Kashmir region. So increasing the share of seats in the Jammu region would be an advantage to Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP).
This increase in the share of votes will give BJP an upper hand to form its government independently. Also, this delimitation will cast a good impression on people that the center has conducted free and fair elections as people of Jammu always demand equal assembly seats in J&K.
The BJP has the maximum vote share in Jammu and when the boundaries of assembly constituencies would be defined with fresh principles of equal voters across all the assembly constituencies the seat share in Jammu will increase while in Kashmir the seat share will decrease.
This increase in the seat share will likely help the BJP to form their government in the Union Territory of J&K with the majority. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won three seats in Jammu with a polling percentage of 46.4% which was the highest ever percentage in the history of elections.
Even being unable to win seats in Kashmir the BJP was able to emerge as a dominant player in the politics of J&K while on the other hand, NC won 3 LokSabha seats with a voting percentage of 7.9% and PDP didn’t win even a single that try had in 2014. Only 2.4% of votes have been polled in the favor of PDP. Also, this decrease of seat share in Kashmir will affect the state parties like PDP and NC dominates the politics of the Kashmir region.
It has also been learnt that some of the 24 vacant seats from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) may also be brought to Jammu region where most of the PoK refugees are settled. Leaders from the community have been making continuous demand to the central government for past many years to open some of the assembly seats and allow voting on them much on the pattern of voting by migrant Kashmiri Pandits from Jammu on seats in Kashmir.