Delimitation of J&K Assembly seats will end partisanship that favours Kashmir, turned state into 'rotten borough' of Valley

One word 'delimitation' that popped up on Tuesday evening created such a commotion in Jammu and Kashmir that there was little else discussed on Eid (5 June) all over the state. In fact, across the country, it was debated in television studios, in newspapers and on social media platforms. All around Kashmir, there was resentment and even Omar Abdullh and Mehbooba Mufti spoke against it on Twitter. They alleged that it was an attempt to dis-empower Kashmir.

In sharp contrast, most people in the Jammu region said that finally they could hope for justice after a fresh delimitation. Undaunted by 40 plus degree Celsius heat, people were out on the streets for heated discussions about the possibility of delimitation de novo. Their expectations were based on the hopes that in a fresh delimitation, the number of seats in the Jammu region could go up, may be by 10 to 15. This, in turn, could end the hegemony of the Kashmir region in the political sphere, and have a cascading effect, making way for more equitable distribution of powers among regions and sub-regions.

 Delimitation of J&K Assembly seats will end partisanship that favours Kashmir, turned state into rotten borough of Valley

Protests against Article 35A in Kashmir. AP

The contrasting emotions that the mention of 'delimitation' evoked in Kashmir and Jammu are rooted in what the people apprehend, and expect, respectively, that it can do to the state polity. In Jammu and Ladakh, Kashmiri hegemony is attributed to unfair distribution of seats in the Legislative Assembly.

Kashmir has an upper hand in the political arena, over Jammu and Ladakh, because it has 46 seats in the state Assembly, as compared to only 37 seats in Jammu region and four in Ladakh. This means that any and every political dispensation, with a majority in the Kashmir Valley, makes for a Kashmir-centric politics, and dominance of the region in various spheres.

In terms of area, geographically, Jammu is about 26,293 square kilometres, Kashmir is 15,948 square kilometres, and Ladakh is far bigger at 59,000 square kilometres. However, since Jammu has 37 seats, on an average, each Assembly constituency is about 710 square kilometres (26,293/37=710.62). In Kashmir, the average area of an Assembly constituency is 346 square kilometres (15,948/46=346.69).

On a cursory glance, we find that constituencies in Jammu are also bigger, voter-wise, than those in Kashmir. In Jammu, Gandhi Nagar is the largest constituency with 1,68,643 voters and in Kashmir, Batmaloo, with 1,20,339 voters (48,304 lesser voters than Gandhi Nagar), is the largest constituency.

So, in terms of area, as also voter-wise, the Jammu constituencies are much bigger as compared to those in the Kashmir valley. This skew, or bias, works against Jammu politically and it gets fewer seats than Kashmir. We can compare numbers of voters, constituency-wise, region-wise and district-wise, of all the 10 districts of Kashmir with Jammu to further check the aforementioned hypothesis.

Incidentally, delimitation of constituencies is done on the basis of criteria laid down in the Representation of Peoples Act, 1957, available online. The 87 seats are purportedly delimited with reference to: (i) population as ascertained at the last preceding Census of which the relevant figures have been published; and (ii) geographical compactness; and (iii) nature of terrain; and (iv) facilities of communication; and (v) the like consideration.

In terms of (i) population, Kashmir is ahead of Jammu as per the 2011 census. In terms of criteria (ii) geographical compactness, Jammu constituencies are far bigger than those in Kashmir. In terms of (iii) nature of terrain also, vast areas of Jammu are more disadvantaged than Kashmir. In terms of (iv), facilities of communication, Jammu is far less developed than Kashmir. This means that on the yardstick of population, Kashmir is ahead of Jammu. But on all other four indices for deciding delimitation, Jammu is ahead and can have many more seats.

 

Jammu Srinagar
Total votes 10,10,959 6,25,801
Total area 2,336 sq kms 294 sq kms
Average area per constituency 212 sq kms 37 sq kms

 

What is the weightage given to each of the five yardsticks as defined in the RPA 1957 for deciding the number and size of constituencies? There is not much clarity on this and contradicting claims are made by different people.

Since it will be cumbersome to compare all the 46 constituencies of Kashmir, with 37 constituencies of Jammu, for our convenience, we hereby undertake comparison of Jammu district with Srinagar district. Incidentally, Srinagar is the summer capital and Jammu the winter capital of the state, each representing the most developed areas of the state.

The total number of voters in Jammu district is 10,10,959 and it has 11 Assembly constituencies, spread over 2,336 square kilometres. As such, average voter per constituency is 91,905 in Jammu (10,10,959/11=91,905) and has an area of 212 square kilometres (2,336/11=212.36). On the other hand, the total number of voters in Srinagar is 6,25,801, with eight constituencies, and the average number of voters per constituency in Srinagar district is 78,225 (625801/8=78,225). The total area of Srinagar district is 294 square kilometres and the average constituency size is only less than 37 square kilometres (294/8=36.75).

The average constituency size in Jammu is 212 square kilometres as compared to 37 square kilometres for Srinagar district. This is roughly six times larger than an average constituency of Srinagar (212/37=5.72). Voter-wise, the average additional voters in each constituency in Jammu district are therefore 91,905-78,225=13,680.

Why has delimitation been done in a manner whereby every constituency of Jammu district is larger, both in area and voter-wise, as compared to Srinagar district? Is it just and equitable that the average constituency in Jammu has 91,905 voters, is spread over an area of 212 square kilometres, whereas that of Srinagar only has only 78,225 voters and an area of 37 sq km?

On the face of it, this smacks of partisanship and gerrymandering to give an upper hand to Kashmir. Incidentally, gerrymandering is a process of manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favour one party or class. In Jammu and Kashmir, this gerrymandering is meant to overtly and covertly favour Kashmir, to the detriment of Jammu and Ladakh.

At one time, the word "pocket borough" was a fairly common used word in the United Kingdom polity and it referred to a small borough (akin to constituency) in which the election of political representatives was controlled by one person or family, through unfair and underhand means. These boroughs were also called as "rotten boroughs" pejoratively. In the 21st Century, the constituencies in Kashmir seem to be the modern updated versions of the rotten boroughs of yore.

In Jammu and Kashmir, instead of a person or a family, it seems the whole of the state has been virtually turned into a rotten borough for the Kashmir region, with Jammu and Ladakh denied political power systemically. That is why voices alleging discrimination are often emanating from both these regions.

In Srinagar district, there are eight Assembly constituencies, having 6,25,801 voters and their names are given here, with the number of voters given in the brackets following the names: Batmaloo (1,20,339), Hazratbal (99,850), Amira Kadal (86,514), Sonawar (77,505), Zadibal (76,909), Eidgah (58,822), Habba Kadal (54,852) and Khaniyar (51,010).

In Jammu district, there are 10,10,959 voters, 11 constituencies and names of all are given, along with the number of voters given in the brackets next to them: Gandhi Nagar (1,68,643), Jammu West (1,53,540), Raipur Domana (96,694), Akhnoor (94,419), Bishnah (89,188), RS Pura (77,134), Chhamb (72,413), Nagrota (72,156), Marh (71,361), Suchetgarh (62,095) and Jammu East (53,316).

 

Kashmir Region (District Srinagar) Jammu Region (District Jammu)
Constituencies Number of voters Constituencies Number of voters
Batmaloo 1,20,339 Gandhi Nagar 1,68,643
Hazratbal 99,850 Jammu West 1,53,540
Amira Kadal 86,514 Raipur Domana 96,694
Sonawar 77,505 Akhnoor 94,419
Zadibal 76,909 Bishnah 89,188
Eidgah 58,822 RS Pura 77,134
Habba Kadal 54,852 Chhamb 72,413
Khaniyar 51,010 Nagrota 72,156
Marh 71,361
Suchetgarh 62,095
Jammu East 53,316

 

There are certain hypothetical situations which we need to consider for understanding the deceit that has been perpetrated by an inequitable distribution of voters in Jammu and Kashmir.

Equation 1: Let us assume that both Jammu and Srinagar districts are treated alike, voter-wise, and all have equal number of votes. Each constituency of Srinagar will then have 91,905 voters and the number of Assembly constituencies will then come down (6,25,801/91,905=6.80, rounded off to next complete digit 7). Instead of present eight Assembly constituencies, it will then have only seven Assembly constituencies and see a reduction in the number of seats.

Equation 2: Let us now assume that the situation is reversed and there are 13,680 more voters in each Srinagar constituency than in Jammu district. Each Srinagar constituency will then have 91,905+13,680=1,05,585 voters. That means it will then have 6,25,801/1,05,585=5.92 (rounded off to next complete digit, which is 6). That will mean Srinagar will then have only six seats, a reduction of two seats than present eight.

Let us also discuss what is likely to happen if Jammu district and Srinagar are treated alike, voter-wise.

Equation 3: Suppose in Jammu, one constituency is carved out of 78,225 voters, as in Srinagar district. Since it has 10,10,959 voters, the number of constituencies will be 10,10,959/78,225=12.92 (rounded off to next complete digit 13). This means that the Jammu district will have 13 seats then, an increase of two seats.

Similar comparisons can be done for other nine districts also, and they confirm similar trends, of the constituencies in the Jammu region being bigger than those in the Kashmir region. In this connection, we can easily compare the figures from Samba and Ganderbal. Samba had a total of 1,90,624 voters when the 2014 Assembly elections were conducted and there were two constituencies, namely Vijaypur (1,08,124) and Samba (82,500). The average voter per constituency was 95,312.

In Ganderbal district, there were 1,60,074 voters divided into two constituencies of Ganderbal (90,548) and Kangan (69,526). The average number of voters per constituency was 80,037. When we compare Ganderbal and Samba, we find that a constituency in Samba has an "additional" 95,312-80,037=15,275 votes.

If a delimitation is done at this juncture, these angularities or bias in favour of Kashmir may get obliterated, and lead to an increase in the number of seats in the Jammu region. This will reduce the political weight of Kashmir in the state and national polity.

These fears and apprehensions have led to lots of noises being heard in Kashmir against any fresh delimitation.

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Updated Date: Jun 07, 2019 20:42:27 IST