Ahead of the Prime Minister’s meeting with political parties from Jammu & Kashmir, the Delimitation Commission secretariat on Wednesday held virtual discussions with all 20 deputy commissioners of the Union territory on details like physical, demographic and administrative issues concerning their respective districts.
The data, furnished earlier by the DCs on the delimitation panel’s direction, is to be utilized for redrawing the assembly segments in J&K, which will see addition of seven new constituencies and delineating of ‘reserved’ constituencies.
The delimitation, or redrawing of the assembly constituencies, is prerequisite for the conduct of assembly polls in the state : something which the authorities and the political class are looking forward to as they seek to kick the political process, already underway, into a higher gear: an objective which, along with speeding up of development, is expected to dominate the agenda of the meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold with representatives of parties from J&K on Thursday.
Contrary to the runaway speculation , fueled by the maximalist posture of players like PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, the agenda of PM’s meeting is likely to focus on taking forward political participation, which started with holding of the first-ever district development council (DDC ) polls, by engaging with political leadership from the valley. “Return of statehood or restoration of Article 370 to its pristine form is not on the table,” stressed a source.
The assertion echoes J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. “In politics, there should be constant dialogue….As I can understand, the PM’s meeting indicates faith in the democratic process and is meant to take it forward by involving the maximum number of people,” Sinha had told TOI in an exclusive interview on Monday.
Sources said the all-party meeting will offer a sounding board for the mainstream political leaders of J&K to put across their views on issues they consider important. At the same time, the progress made by J&K administration after the abrogation of Article 370, on fronts like development, security, social security and Covid management, is likely to be shared.
Even on the issue of assembly polls, while a reiteration of the government’s commitment to hold them after the delimitation process can be expected, any assurance on timing is unlikely as both delimitation and elections lie in the domain of Constitutional bodies. While the Delimitation Commission, set up under the Delimitation Act, decides the course of delimitation exercise, any decision on poll timing is the Constitutional domain of the Election Commission. At most, the meeting may urge political parties to take part in the Delimitation Commission’s proceedings in the days and months to come, considering that National Conference MPs had absented themselves from the meeting of associate members called by the panel in February 2021.
As regards restoration of statehood, the meeting may only reiterate the assurances given by the Prime Minister and Home Minister in Parliament in this regard.
Meanwhile, the delimitation panel – through senior EC officials who offer it secretarial assistance – held two different sessions on Wednesday with 10 DCs each from Jammu and Kashmir region, to discuss the data regarding the topography, demography and administrative challenges of their respective districts. “The idea is to use this data to create compact constituencies in terms of geography, accessibility and connectivity,” said an officer.
Sources in J&K administration said some additional data is yet to be shared with the Delimitation Commission.
The delimitation panel is likely to conduct another meeting with associate members, besides holding deliberations with J&K political parties before it gets down to drawing the contours of the new J&K constituency map. It will also be visiting J&K to hold public hearings later this year.