Press Trust of india

Delimitation Commission proposals fulfill BJP agenda of ‘disempowering’ people of Kashmir: Omar

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Srinagar/New Delhi: Lashing out at the Delimitation Commission over its draft recommendations, former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday accused the panel of fulfilling the BJP’s agenda of “disempowering” people of Kashmir, and said his National Conference (NC) will fight the move through democratic means.

The commission’s proposal to increase the number of Assembly seats in Jammu division by six and in Kashmir division by just one ignored the “overwhelming criteria” of population, the NC vice-president said.

“By increasing the seats in this proportion, you are actually disenfranchising people in Kashmir because the ratio of seat-to-population changes drastically,” Abdullah told PTI in his first detailed reaction to the commission’s draft recommendations.

The draft recommendations were presented in a meeting of the commission in New Delhi two days ago, attended by three MPs of the NC and two of the BJP. The commission has sought comments of the MPs who are its associate members by December 31.

The NC, PDP and other political parties largely based in the Kashmir region have vociferously opposed the draft proposals which will increase the number of Assembly seats in Jammu division from 37 to 43 and Kashmir from 46 to 47.

Abdullah made it clear that the NC will not endorse the recommendations and if the commission doesn’t amend the proposals, “we will make sure our dissent is part of the record”.

Ruling out moving the Supreme Court because, “rightly or wrongly, you cannot challenge recommendations of a Delimitation Commission in a court”, he said “we have to try and build pressure through other democratic means.”

He said the concerted plan of the Centre since 2018 has been to “disempower people in Kashmir” and the proposals of the Delimitation Commission “is just another step in that direction”.

“We have time and again questioned the rationale for this delimitation…their justification for August 05, 2019 (decisions) was that you can’t have one country with two systems and that Jammu and Kashmir had to be brought at par with the rest of the country, then why were we singled out for delimitation,” he said.

Abdullah pointed out that many BJP leaders in Jammu were not happy with the 2011 census and said the government could have waited for a couple of years and then had a delimitation based on the census of 2021.

“Then we would have seen what the ratio is. So, they can’t have it all their way. They want delimitation, but then they want to ignore 2011 census data. They can’t do that and that’s why we have said that the commission has not taken an objective view of this distribution of seats,” he said.

He countered the argument in a section of media that the seats were being distributed because of geographical areas and said if that is the consideration, then why do Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra not have more seats than Uttar Pradesh. All these three states have larger territory than Uttar Pradesh which is the most populous state.

“…and in this (J&K) case that is being ignored for political purposes and that is why we are opposed to it,” he said and added that it was not justified because at the end of the day the main basis for delimitation is the census.

On the criticism from some political parties over the NC’s participation in the commission meetings, he said, “We have…made our position very clear as to where we stand on these recommendations.”

All political parties barring one met the commission when it came to Srinagar and Jammu.

“Now those who criticise our participation would also have criticised us for staying away when this report would have been presented…. So, these critics would criticise us regardless,” he said.

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