The hasty move for de-limitation of assembly constituencies in Jammu & Kashmir is yet another evidence that the BJP, under the political chanakya in Amit Shah, will go to any extent in the post-truth era to grab power.
Ever since the formation of the party, BJP had as the party's main agenda as well as an item in its election manifestoes, the repeal of the special status of Jammu-Kashmir granted in the Constitution. The argument repeated by BJP in support of this has been that the northern-most state alone should not keep aloof from the rest of the country. But then paradoxically, the BJP armed with power at the Centre, is now venturing on a peculiar political experiment by isolating Kashmir alone, from the legal provisions applied countrywide.
The Central Ministry of Home Affairs has kickstarted a sudden move to enforce delimitation of constituencies in Jammu-Kashmir alone, which however has been frozen for the entire country until 2026. Out of the total 87 assembly seats in the state, the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have 46, 37 and 4 seats respectively. The present attempt by the Centre is to find ways to further divide the regions in a manner favourable to it, increase its seat share and thus grab power on its own in the state.
Jammu-Kashmir is a subject high on the priority list of Amit Shah, ever since taking charge as central home minister. In the Lok Sabha election, BJP had secured majority in 27 of the 37 assembly constituencies in Hindu-majority Jammu region, plus three out of four in Ladakh. With this, BJP is in a position to garner 30 seats on its own in the 87-strong assembly. In Kashmir valley, the ally of BJP, Jammu-Kashmir People's Conference led by Sajjad Lone, had finished second in the Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency. And in two assembly segments here, People's Conference has a majority. In the assembly, where 44 seats are required for an absolute majority, BJP is in a position to win 32 seats for certain as of now.
What the ruling party at the Centre aims now is to effect a constituency de-limitation to turn the remaining constituencies favourable to BJP. After assuming charge as minister, Amit Shah had a lengthy discussion behind closed doors with Jammu-Kashmir Governor. He also held talks with Intelligence Bureau Director Rajiv Jain and Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba. The attempt through all this exercise is to implement under governor's rule a delimitation that is lying frozen as of now. The most recent delimitation of constituencies based on population was made in 2002 based on 2001 census. Since then, through a constitutional amendment, it was frozen until after the next census to take place after 2026 . In line with this, the Farook Abdulla government of Jammu-Kashmir enacted a legislation in the state with a similar amendment in the state's constitution the same year. This constitutional amendment can be superseded by the governor through an ordinance, subject to parliament approving it within six months. Experts opine that in the absence of a majority for BJP in the Rajya Sabha, this may face a hurdle.
BJP has been consistently arguing for long that the Hindu-majority Jammu region does not enjoy the consideration given to the Muslim-majority Kashmir, and that since more assembly constituencies are in the valley, power and privileges are concentrated in Srinagar. But this contention has no basis since the basis for delimitation of constituencies is population. According to the 2011 census report, out of the total 1,25,41,302of the state's population, 68,88,475 live in Kashmir division and 53,78,539 in Jammu. The average population of a constituency is 1,49,749 in Kashmir. In Jammu it is 1,45,365. In Ladakh the total population is 2,74,289 and the average population in an assembly constituency is 68, 572. Thus Jammu, which occupies 25.93 percent of the total land area of the state, the population is 42.89 percent of the state's total. In Kashmir, covering 15.73 per cent of the land area, the population is 54.93 per cent. In Ladakh, the land is 58.33 per cent of the total and population a mere 2.18 percent. In other words, Jammu has larger land area and Kashmir has greater population. It is this difference that is reflected in the current number of seats.
BJP is raising the demand that communities of Gujjar, Bakarwal, Gaddi and Sippi who together form 11 per cent of the population, should be given seat reservation. In 1991, these sections were classified under sceduled tribes. All the seven reserved seats of the state are in Jammu. In addition to it, as per Article 48 of the state's constitution, 24 seats are lying vacant in the region illegally occupied by Pakistan. BJP is also demanding that refugees who have arrived from West Pakistan should be rehabilitated. Thus, the party is raising several demands for securing power for itself, by delimiting constituencies through multiple means. The Centre has initiated its pursuit and action along these lines. The concern expressed by all the other political parties is that such moves will further worsen the situation in Kashmir, already messed up by a combination of secessionists, extremists and cross-border terrorism from Kashmir. Therefore, the prayer from all quarters is that there will be no opportunity for terrorists, on the prowl for any opportunity to make capital out of the central government's counter moves, to vitiate Kashmir.