J&K: Centre to hold all-party meeting to discuss delimitation exercise
The Centre will hold an all-party meeting on Jammu & Kashmir next week to discuss the delimitation process—redrawing and re-adjustment of constituencies—and has reached out to mainstream parties. This could eventually pave the way for Assembly elections. This is the Centre's first key political move concerning J&K since it abrogated Article 370 in 2019, bifurcating the erstwhile state into two Union Territories—J&K and Ladakh.
People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti said she was called for a meeting in Delhi on June 24. It wasn't clear if all constituents of the five-party-strong People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD)—fighting for restoring Article 370 and 35A—would attend the meeting. However, Jammu & Kashmir National Conference President and PAGD Chairperson, Farooq Abdullah, earlier said they were open for talks with the Centre.
The PAGD or Gupkar Alliance—formed last year in J&K—comprises five parties at present. They include the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Jammu and Kashmir Awami National Conference, and Jammu & Kashmir People's Movement.
To initiate the delimitation exercise in J&K, the Delimitation Commission wrote to Deputy Commissions of all 20 districts last Tuesday, seeking the latest information on aspects like population density and topography of districts and Assembly constituencies. Almost all districts have provided the Commission with the required information. To recall, the Commission—constituted in March 2020—was given a one-year extension in March this year.
The last meeting of the Delimitation Commission—led by Retired Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai—was held in February 2021 where an overview of the delimitation process was presented before the members of the panel. Of the Commission's five Associate Members, only two—Union Minister Jitendra Singh and MP Jugal Kishore Singh—attended this meeting. The others—National Conference MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone, and Hasnain Masoodi—skipped the meeting.
Notably, the Centre has put out feelers to J&K political parties to hold discussions before the delimitation process is initiated. Meanwhile, at a recently-held PAGD meeting, PDP chief Mufti reportedly said she wouldn't take a "maximalist approach" if the Centre invites them for talks on the way forward. But the National Conference has so far remained away from the Delimitation Commission's consultative process.
"Things have settled down in Kashmir. Developmental works are in progress. Security situation is under control. It is only fair to reach out to political parties," a central government source said. On conducting Assembly elections, the government sources said, "It is likely the process may be hastened and...achieved by the end of 2021...It will happen only after the Delimitation Commission submits its report."