New Delhi: The delimitation commission will undertake a four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir from July 6-9 and interact with political parties, their leaders and officials of Jammu & Kashmir to gather “first hand” inputs on the conduct of the mega exercise to carve out new constituencies there, the EC said on Wednesday.
The decision was taken after a meeting was held on Wednesday at the headquarters of the poll panel here that was chaired by delimitation commission chairperson Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra.
“During the visit period, the commission will interact with political parties, public representatives and Jammu & Kashmir administration officials including district election officers/deputy commissioners of 20 districts of Jammu & Kashmir to gather first hand information and input concerning the ongoing process of delimitation as mandated under the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019,” an Election Commission (EC) spokesperson said in a statement issued here.
The commission, it said, expected that all stakeholders will “cooperate” in this endeavour and provide valuable suggestions so that the task of delimitation is completed timely, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that the delimitation commission already has had a series of meetings related to data/map of the districts/constituencies related to census 2011.
“Earlier, it invited all associate members for interaction, which were participated by two of the associate members. A number of representations have also been received on various aspects concerning delimitation from civil societies and members of the public from Jammu & Kashmir,” the spokesperson said.
The delimitation commission has already taken note of all such suggestions and directed that these may be deliberated further in the context of ground realities concerning delimitation, the spokesperson said.
The commission, constituted in March last year with a one year time frame to complete its task, is entrusted with redrawing the parliamentary and assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir.
It was given its first extension of one year by the Union government in March this year in view of the Covid pandemic.
The visit of the delimitation commission comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with leaders of mainstream political parties from Jammu and Kashmir last week where he stressed that the delimitation exercise has to happen quickly so that polls can be held in Jammu & Kashmir.
During the visit, the members of the delimitation commission will hold talks with various political parties, their representatives and also the five associate members who are the five Lok Sabha MPs from Jammu & Kashmir.
Of the mainstream parties, the National Conference, which has won all the three Lok Sabha seats from the Kashmir Valley, had earlier decided to stay away from the proceedings of the commission contending there was no need to redraw the constituencies at this stage.
However, there are indications that the party is having a rethink and has recently authorised its president Farooq Abdullah to decide whether to participate in the deliberations of the commission.
The prime minister, during the June 24 meeting, had said the ongoing delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir has to happen quickly so that polls can be held to install an elected government that gives strength to its development trajectory.
In a series of tweets after a three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting with 14 political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, the prime minister said, “Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in J&K. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory.”
The delimitation exercise has attained an urgency amid indications that the Centre is keen to hold early assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. There is speculation that the polls could be held in the next six to nine months.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the delimitation commission is understood to have reviewed the progress made so far, including the consultations held by it last week with all deputy commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir on restructuring of the existing assembly constituencies and carving out seven new seats early this month.
At the meeting with the deputy commissioners on June 23, inputs were gathered on how to make the assembly seats more geographically compact.
Once the delimitation exercise is completed, the number of assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir will go up from 83 to 90.
Twenty-four seats of the Assembly continue to remain vacant as they fall under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir