The mercury may have plunged in Kashmir and the erstwhile state may be covered in snow but politics is certainly showing signs of a thaw. The renewed buzz in political circles comes after a hiatus of more than 28 months after the BJP-led central government scrapped Article 370 and bifurcated the state into Union territories in August 2019. In the past two months, political parties have defied the chill and hosted conventions and rallies across the length and breadth of Jammu and Kashmir.
The sudden in of activity has stoked speculation about the long-overdue assembly election as the delimitation exercise nears completion. The J&K Delimitation Commission, led by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, will submit its report to the Union home ministry in March next year. Except for the BJP, all the other major political parties have questioned the exercise of redrawing the boundaries of Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies and increasing the number of seats under the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019. It is also being challenged legally in the Supreme Court.
The National Conference (NC), an associate member of the commission along with the BJP, is expected to attend the meeting on the issue on December 20 (they had skipped an earlier meeting on February 18, saying the matter was sub judice). Besides Desai, election commissioner Sushil Chandra and J&K state election commissioner K.K. Sharma are ex officio members while NC grandee Farooq Abdullah, Hasnain Masoodi and Akbar Lone, along with the BJP’s Jugal Kishore Sharma and Union minister Jitendra Singh, make up the five parliamentarians who are associate members.
Union home minister Amit Shah had in October categorically ruled out halting the delimitation exercise and said elections would happen only after the exercise was completed. “Why should we stop delimitation? Nothing is going to stop it,” said Shah in an address to youth club members in Srinagar in October. “After delimitation, there will be elections and then restoration of statehood.” This was on his first visit to J&K since the abrogation of Article 370.
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