Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti pulled no punches in her attack on the Central government today, labelling the delimitation exercise now being conducted in Jammu and Kashmir a "divisive agenda". The Union Home Ministry informed the Lok Sabha today that they plan to complete the delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir as early as possible.
"When delimitation cannot happen in the rest of the country till 2026, why are they doing so in J&K? It is part of their divisive agenda. They want to increase seats in some regions and organise the seats in a way that there is a division of votes in the majority community... Muslims, Kashmiris, Gujjar. They want to further divide the society," she told reporters at the Indian Women's Press Club in Delhi.
Joining the process will not help either, she said. "They are just not listening to people who have joined the process too," she said.
Though her party -- the People's Democratic Party, which was a BJP ally till June 2018 -- will contest the elections, she said she will not participate "till Article 370 is restored". "We will not cede any space to them (the BJP)," she said.
The Home ministry today said the government has formed a Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (Retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai for "delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir".
"The Delimitation Commission has held extensive consultations with various stakeholders like State Election Commissioner of UT of J&K, Chief Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government, the Registrar General of India, Surveyor General of India, District Election Officers of all 20 districts of J&K," said junior home minister Nityanand Rai.
After the Centre split Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories in August 2019, the composition of Jammu and Kashmir assembly changed.
Four seats in Ladakh were declared void, reducing the strength of the assembly to 83 from 87. At the same time, the new J&K Reorganisation Act provided for increasing the number of assembly seats to 90.
The planned delimitation exercise has irked most political leaders in Kashmir Valley.
A leader considered close to the BJP said, "The idea is to have their own Chief Minister with some support from the parties in the Valley. And we suspect to reach their goal, they will increase the number of seats in the Jammu region". The BJP has a substantial base in the Hindu-majority Jammu area.
Recently, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that first delimitation will take place, then elections will be held and then the process to restore statehood will begin.
Jammu and Kashmir has been under Central rule since the BJP ended its ruling alliance with Mehbooba Mufti's party. There was expectation that it would be held simultaneously with the 2019 general elections but the Election Commission decided against it in view of the state government's view of the security situation.