Formation of a Government in Jammu and Kashmir remains elusive. The hung mandate, given by the people of the state in the recent election, has resulted in a political deadlock. Despite the lack of clear majority, the performance of BJP was quite spectacular. From 11 seats in 2008 assembly elections BJP’s tally went up to 25 seats in this election- an increase of more than 120 percent. Most of seats won by the BJP came from Jammu. So what would have happened if BJP had won 48 seats from Jammu alone? Yes you read it right- 48 seats.
Presently Jammu division has 37 assembly constituencies, which were allotted on the basis of 1995 population census. The Lok Sabha and State Assembly constituencies are carved out on the basis of population. And as per the latest population figures available on the Ministry of Home Affairs website, The Population of Jammu is 69, 07,623 and that of Kashmir is 53, 50,811.
So according to the population statistics Jammu should have more assembly seats than Kashmir. If current population of Jammu is taken into account then the Jammu region alone should have 48 Assembly seats.
So why does Jammu have lesser State assembly constituencies than Kashmir?
When the 2001 census report came out, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference government in J&K froze the new delineation of assembly constituencies in the state till 2026. “Delineation of constituency” basically means revising the number of constituencies on the basis of latest demographic statistics. Thus the constituencies were not rearranged according to the 2001 census report and the state continues to follow the old division of constituencies between different regions of J&K which is based on the obsolete 1995 census.
The main idea behind the freeze imposed on the delineation of assembly constituencies was to keep the dominant political position of Kashmir vis-a-vis Jammu in the state intact. The Kashmir based parties didn’t want to undermine the political significance of Kashmir. With Kashmir having the lion’s share of the seats, the Kashmir based political parties will always be in a dominant position.
Today all the states in India, except Jammu and Kashmir, have delineated the number of assembly constituencies in their respective states on the basis of 2001 census report. Thus the people of Jammu remain highly underrepresented in the J&K State Assembly. It was one of the reasons why the BJP, despite getting the highest number of vote, was not able to win the highest number of seats. The PDP, a Kashmir based party ended up winning the maximum number of seats. The notable demographical changes that had taken place in J&K do not get reflected in the current distribution of seats and the under representation of the people of Jammu kills the very essence of democracy.
The freeze on delineation of assembly constituencies till 2026 was challenged in the Supreme Court by J&K Panther’s Party chief Bhim Singh, but the Supreme Court had upheld the decision by the J&K National Conference government citing the article 327 of the Constitution which empowers the Parliament to make a law relating to delineation of constituencies.
The Supreme Court further stated “The mandate of Article 329A is that any law relating to the delineation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies shall not be called in question in any court.” So the National Conference government took full advantage of the special provisions mentioned in the constitution to enforce the inequitable distribution of seats between Kashmir and Jammu.
The decision to stop the delineation of assembly constituencies till 2026 may be constitutionally legal but the question is – Is it fair?