EC on course to meet delimitation exercise deadline

NEWDELHI, 28th Aug: As political activity begins to open up in Jammu and Kashmir, the Delimitation Commission is looking to increase the pace towards redrawing the constituencies for the new union territory as well as four North Eastern states including Manipur by March 2021.
Election commissioner Sushil Chandra, the representative of the poll panel in the Delimitation Commission, told news agencies that the “outer limit” to complete the delimitation process was one year. Work has begun in full swing to ensure timely completion of the process, he added.
Chandra said “every voice will be heard” before deciding on the delimitation of constituencies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day address this month that “India is committed to holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir once the delimitation exercise is complete”.
“The government has given us a timeline of one year starting from March 2020. So, the outer limit is one year. We are on course to do it within the given timeframe for all four north-eastern states and J&K,” Chandra told ET.
The Delimitation Commission has been set up to redraw the boundaries of the electoral constituencies for J&K, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, the number of seats in the legislative assembly will increase to 114 from 107, with due reservations for SC and ST communities. The seven additional seats are expected to be ST seats.
Chaired by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, the commission has held four meetings so far and moved into its own office in Delhi this week.
It has also appointed ‘associate members’ representatives of political parties from the regions in J&K and the four states.
The issue has generated much heat in J&K, where most of the major political parties have rejected the exercise, saying that it tantamount to accepting the events of August 5, 2019 — the day the central government announced the decision to scrap J&K’s status as a state and split it into the union territories of J&K and Ladakh.
Five Lok Sabha members from J&K — three from the National Conference and two from BJP — were nominated as associate members to the commission.
Election commissioner Chandra said the delimitation process will consider every view and representation made and hold meetings with the associate members.
“Once we have the basic structure ready for delimitation and that will be soon we will be calling a meeting of the associate members for their suggestions. We are also getting many representations from local people which are also being noted down and taken into consideration,” he added.
Work at the Delimitation Commission, meanwhile, is picking pace. State election commissioners (SECs) have been appointed in the four states, and J&K will also soon have an SEC — currently the chief electoral officer is holding this additional charge.
All the data have been obtained from the census commissioner — 2011 for J&K and 2001 for the other four states — and sent to the SECs.
This is done to ascertain that the constituency to be delimited is geographically contiguous and compact, and that the last administrative unit — a block, taluka or tehsil — is not split in an assembly constituency. Also, no assembly constituency should be split between two parliamentary constituencies.
The commission has also frozen all administrative units since June when it referred the census data to the SECs.
Chandra said there could be some delay in the process only if new circumstances develop — like the Ministry of Home Affairs reconsidering using 2001 census figures for delimitation in the north-eastern states.
“So once data comes from SECs after verification, we can finalise on the carving out of the constituencies through a proper computation method and guidelines which will be in sync with all rulebooks,” he said.
“We are moving well ahead on this at our end and already have some sense of the numbers involved. Only in case the MHA advises that the 2011 census instead of 2001 census figures be used for north-eastern states, we might have some delay. The issue is with the MHA and should soon be resolved.”

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