By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, Dec 21 (IANS) The proposed increase in the Assembly seats by six in the Jammu division and one in Kashmir division by the delimitation commission has evoked sharp criticism from Valley centric political parties.
In the erstwhile Assembly, Jammu division had 37 and Kashmir division 46 seats while the Ladakh region had 4.
As proposed by the delimitation commission headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai, the new J&K Assembly would have 90 seats, 47 for Kashmir division and 43 for Jammu division.
The commission has proposed to keep 24 Assembly seats reserved for Pakistan occupied parts of J&K.
It is also proposed to have seven seats reserved for Schedule Castes and nine for the Scheduled Tribes.
While the Jammu centric BJP has said the delimitation commission has undone the long standing injustice with the Jammu division, the Valley centric political parties like the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Conference (PC), Apni Party and even the CPI-M have called the delimitation commission recommendations ‘unacceptable’.
NC Vice President and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that the delimitation commission has tailor made its recommendations to suit the political interests of the BJP.
Interestingly, the PC headed by Sajad Gani Lone and the Apni Party headed by Syed Altaf Bukhari have also criticised the delimitation commission recommendations.
Rivals of the PC and the Apni Party have been calling these two parties as the proxies of the BJP to make the right wing party acceptable to the voters in the Muslim dominated Valley.
With nine seats getting reserved for Scheduled Tribes in addition to seven for the Scheduled Castes, the dice would definitely be loaded against Kashmir centric parties.
As is visible on the ground, so far, no political party, including the BJP is likely to achieve the magic number of 46 in a house of 90 so that it can lodge a claim to form the next government in J&K on its own.
The fortunes of the NC and the PDP are heavily loaded against each other, the gain of one of them means the direct loss of the other.
Given the Muslim majority pockets of the Jammu division, the NC and the PDP will have to wait for the next political move of the senior Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad.
If Azad breaks loose from the Congress, as is widely believed in circles close to him, then he would become a ‘king maker’ of sorts in the days to come in J&K.
Azad has general public support and goodwill among the people of the Jammu division, but among the voters in Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban and also Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu division, he has significant political support.
If he decides to float a separate political party and throw his hat in the arena, then the chances of the NC and the PDP getting seats in the Jammu division become bleaker.
Voters in Kashmir are expected to vote for local candidates who generate goodwill among the people and not because of the legacy of old political parties like the NC.
The BJP has been pushing for its agenda to have a chief minister from the Jammu region to break the longstanding practice of having one from the Valley.
If the new Assembly throws up a fractured mandate with none of the major political parties getting enough seats to stake claim to power on its own, dark horses like Azad, Sajad, Bukhari, etc., could call the shots by pledging support to the front runners.
In a nutshell, the proposed increase of six seats in Jammu division and one in Kashmir has once again driven a wedge between the Valley centric and the Jammu centric parties.
This time it appears that sauce for the gander might not be sauce for the goose in J&K.
By Sheikh Qayoom