Valley parties open to discussions with delimitation panel

SRINAGAR: With the Delimitation Commission set to visit Jammu and Kashmir next week, key mainstream political parties in the Valley including the National Conference and the People’s Conference are likely to participate in the discussions with the Commission, sources told The Indian Express.

The Commission is scheduled to visit J&K between July 6 and July 9 and hold discussions with political parties, public representatives and officials of the UT administration for redrawing of boundaries of Assembly seats.

People’s Conference Chairman Sajad Lone said if invited, the party will meet the members of the Delimitation Commission. “We are not averse to joining the process of delimitation but it has to be fair and transparent, not only between the two regions (Kashmir and Jammu) but also within the regions,” he said.

Observing that J&K’s political leadership has to ensure that “Delhi delivers”, Lone said, “We have to create an enabling environment for that.” Refuting any boycott of polls, he said, “There is a need to understand that such action has yielded no results. We should look at the other side as well as keeping away the opponents could be a trap.”

Meanwhile, the PDP has said the matter of participation will be discussed only after an invitation is extended.

In a communique issued Wednesday, the Commission stated the decision was taken after a meeting chaired by Justice (retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai, and attended by Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra.

Sources said three National Conference leaders, who are Associate Members in the Delimitation Commission, are likely to attend the next meeting of the Commission. The three leaders — Srinagar MP Dr Farooq Abdullah, South Kashmir MP Justice (Retired) Hasnain Masoodi and North Kashmir MP Akbar Lone — had stayed away from the February 18 meeting of the Commission, while BJP MPs Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma had participated. The National Conference had boycotted it then citing the party’s legal challenge to the constitutional changes of August 5, 2019.

When contacted, Congress state unit chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir told The Indian Express that during the all-party meeting in New Delhi on June 24, almost all non-BJP parties had said that delimitation should be conducted after an Assembly is in place.

“However, the Union Home Minister said it is a requisite process before restoration of statehood and any electoral process. We even brought up the apprehensions surrounding delimitation but the HM said there are set procedures and formulas for such a process and the commission will follow that,” Mir said.

NC’s Vice President Omar Abdullah too had objected to J&K being singled out for delimitation — while for the rest of the country the exercise was to be carried out as per Census 2021, for J&K, it was being hurried up based on the Census 2011.

Mir said if the process was kept fair, and once there was an official initiation, the Congress would participate. The party is also scheduled to hold internal discussions in this regard on Saturday.

CPIM leader MY Tarigami also said members who attended the PM’s meeting raised questions on the necessity and timing of the delimitation exercise as well as the concern that since it was delayed for Assam why it could not be delayed in J&K.

To this, according to Tarigami, the HM replied, “With Assam, there was to be no increase in the number of seats. However, with J&K, the J&K Reorganisation Act, adopted and passed by Parliament, specifies an increase in the number of Assembly seats.”

He said the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) will also meet and discuss the issue.

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