New J&K Assembly polls not before 2021, say govt sources

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25

With a formal communication from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the Election Commission expected only after October 31 to set in motion the process of delimitation exercise for the Assembly of the proposed Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, sources in the government indicated that the first half of 2021 would be the earliest feasible time to conduct elections in the state.

It is learnt that the MHA can formally write to the EC only after October 31, as constitutionally on this date only the reorganisation of the state into the UTs of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir would come into effect. The government, through a gazette notification, had fixed the date for brining into effect the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

Sources in the MHA said, the EC has indicated that once the formal communication is sent, the poll panel could begin the process of delimitation of J&K Assembly seats only by the end of November 2019 and it would take a little over a year to set up administrative mechanism. They said, the EC will take time to finalise the sub-committees and schedules for undertaking the exercise in 9 to 10 phases, as it mandatorily requires completing the procedure established by law.

Therefore, sources said, given the proposed timeline envisaged by the EC, there is very little chance that fresh assembly elections in J&K could be held before the first half of 2021.

Since the Ladakh division is being created as a separate UT, the total number of seats in the new J&K Assembly will come down from 87 to 83, as the four seats of Leh, Kargil, Zanskar and Nubra would no longer be part of it.

At present, Kashmir has 46 Assembly seats while the Jammu division has 37. It is likely that since the delimitation process would take into account the geographical area and the population of the two regions, Jammu division would benefit by the creation of seven new Assembly seats, as provided in the reorganisation Act. Sources said, this in turn would mean that the new legislative Assembly will have 90 seats with the Valley retaining its 46, while the Jammu region getting 44 seats.

Delimitation process may start by Nov-end

  • It is learnt that the MHA can formally write to the EC only after October 31, as constitutionally on this date only the reorganisation of the state into the UTs of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir would come into effect
  • The government, through a gazette notification, had fixed October 31, 2019, as date for bringing into effect the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019
  • Sources said the EC has indicated that once the formal communication is sent, the poll panel could begin the process of delimitation of J&K Assembly seats only by the end of November 2019 and it would take a little over a year to set up administrative mechanism
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