Amit’s Delimitation Trap In Kashmir

Kashmir Magazine

Shafqat Bukhari

With new Home Minister Amit Shah pronouncing plans of kick starting a process for fresh delimitation of assembly constituencies in Jammu & Kashmir to facilitate equal distribution of seats among Kashmir, Jammu and Ladhak the three regions of the state, the Narendra Modi government is beginning its second inning with the plans of changing the political arithmetic in Jammu & Kashmir assembly which has the constitutional mandate to allow or disallow the extension of any central government’s legislation to Jammu & Kashmir state. Obviously the idea of equal share of seats to Kashmir, Jammu and Ladhak in the state assembly on the basis of their geographical area but not the population is an attempt to change the political arithmetic of the assembly for pushing through any anti-Kashmiri resolution on article 370 and article-35 A , but the central government has no constitutional or legal mandate to bypass the state assembly and enforce a fresh limitation exercise on its own. Such an idea fructifying in the absence of a popular government would throw many questions on the constitutional and legal authority of the central government on carrying out a fresh delimitation exercise put on hold till 2026 by the statement assembly and suspension of such an exercise till 2016 has also been upheld by the apex court of the country. Creating an impression that geographical area could be the basis for equi-distribution of assembly seats among the three regions of the state would most likely draw a flak as it is the number of souls which is determinant factor for adjustment or enhancement of assembly or parliamentary seats everywhere in the world and nowhere in the world such an exercise is carried out on the basis of geographical area of any assembly or parliamentary constituencies of any state. Since undisputed fact is that BJP while taking undue advantage of a nepotistic Chief Minister like Mehbooba Mufti for about three years has exploited valley politics for its own political gains and in the process the people of Kashmir are finding themselves passing through a critical phase of political turbulence. Making area a basis for delimitation of assembly or parliamentary constituencies can trigger demands of more seats from the states having bigger geographical areas than the most populous states of the country.


Since people have to vote , So population becomes the only criteria for any delimitation of assembly or parliamentary constituency and even naives understand that geographical area of any state or assembly/parliamentary constituency has to do nothing with the delimitation processes. Home Minister Amit Shah’s absolutely provocative pronouncement on delimitation of assembly constituencies ahead of assembly elections would generate an atmosphere of regional and religious animosity in Kashmir which would in turn further deepen the political chaos and crisis in Kashmir. Though political wisdom demands that contentious issues are left untouched till a popular government is in place but the Modi government at the centre tends to fiddle with the constitutional issues for the purposes of regional and religious imbalances in the only muslim majority state of the country which interestingly has been at the core of difficulties in India-Pakistan relations for the last seventy years. Already at loggerheads with the two largest regional mainstream political parties National Conference (NC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) over the row on article 370 and article 35-A, the new Home Minister Amit Shah won’t find it easy to impose any major decision on delimitation of assembly constituencies over the people of Jammu & Kashmir against the whims and wishes of the majority of the population in a hostile political atmosphere.



Triggering a row over delimitation of assembly constituencies in Jammu & Kashmir is a good idea for furthering the prospects of the BJP’s electoral prospects in majority of the hindu dominated pockets of Jammu region ahead of the proposed assembly elections but same could prove dangerous for the regional and religious harmony in Jammu and Ladhak regions of the state. If one watches debates on Jammu & Kashmir on national television Channels or reads about them in national newspapers, one will often see political leaders from Jammu region quoting Jammu & Kashmir constitution when it suits them but when it comes to constitutional and legal authority of the central government over its intervention in the legislative matters, they tend to take all excuses and offer bizarre reasoning for changing the administrative nomenclature of the state. Since the axiomatic truth is that the power to amend the J& K constitution and decide the course of action on any contentious issue lies with the assembly only but not the central government , so better it would be for the central government to clear all decks for the conduct of early assembly elections in the state. Since an elected government alone can ensure that any changes that come in through a constitutional exercise are in the best interests of the state and its population, better it would be for Amit Shah and his likes to leave the future course of action on contentious issues particularly article 370, article 35-A and delimitation of assembly constituencies for the next elected Government of Jammu & Kashmir. However, if Amit Shah and his likes chose to confront the mainstream leadership in Kashmir and obstruct the process of restoration of popular rule in the state, the democracy would be a casualty in the state. After all democracy is the route to delimitation but delimitation in conflict with the public emotions can’t be a right route to democracy.