On Thursday, history was made. For Jammu and Kashmir, a revolution was set in motion. The Delimitation Commission tasked with redrawing the assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday met to finalise the delimitation order for the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. What has emerged from the Delimitation Commission is the possibility of Jammu and Kashmir getting a Hindu chief minister for the very first time. Kashmir now faces the prospect of coming under the rule of a Hindu ruler after 683 years!
As per the final Delimitation Order, out of the 90 Assembly constituencies in the region, 43 will be a part of the Jammu region and 47 of the Kashmir region. Earlier, Jammu had only 37 seats in the assembly, while Kashmir was represented with 46 seats. This imbalance helped Kashmir get overrepresented in the assembly, which is why the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has always had a Muslim chief minister, and never a Hindu one or a person belonging to other minority communities.
Why the Delimitation Exercise’s Results are Historic
Not only has the delimitation commission recommended for the number of seats to be increased in Jammu by six, but has also made some recommendations that will set Islamist posteriors on fire. It must be remembered that members of the Kashmiri Pandit community made representations before the commission and said they were persecuted and forced to live in exile as refugees in their own country for the last three decades.
Kashmiri Pandits had demanded that they be given due and rightful political representation after the completion of the delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir. Accordingly, the commission has recommended to the Modi government that it give at least two seats in the J&K assembly to Kashmir Pandits and that they be given powers at par with those of nominated members.
The commission also recommended reservations for Scheduled Tribes in nine Assembly constituencies, out of which six are in Jammu and three in Kashmir valley.
J&K Can Now Have a Hindu CM
What was inconceivable until five years ago has been made a possibility by the Modi government today – all owing to the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent delimitation exercise that was conducted.
Politics in the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir was always Valley-centric. After accession to India, the State Constituent Assembly was constituted under Maharaja’s Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir, but Sheikh Abdullah’s administration arbitrarily carved out 30 seats for the Jammu region and 43 seats for the Kashmir region, and two seats for the Ladakh region. The disproportionate allocation of seats was carried forward in the following delimitations. And the political atmosphere in the state has never been conducive towards the idea of a Hindu CM coming from Jammu.
Since BJP has propagated a pro-nationalism ideology and has also managed to mount an unprecedented assault against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, it can expect to win a lion’s share out of the 43 seats in the Jammu division. Assuming that the party wins a majority of seats in the Jammu division, BJP also needs to ensure that it can win a few seats in the Kashmir division. Winning a high number of seats in Kashmir is obviously not possible for the BJP, yet, if one were to talk of a few isolated seats here and there, the BJP could emerge as the king of the Union Territory once it is granted statehood and is allowed to have a chief minister.
Time is on the BJP’s side
It is for the Modi government to decide whether Jammu and Kashmir is to be granted conditional statehood or not, if at all. So, the BJP has time on its side. While Jammu and Kashmir remains a Union Territory, the BJP can expand its presence in the region and convince voters that it is the best alternative to corrupt dynastic parties that had thrown the erstwhile state to the dogs during their alternating periods of rule.
When the time is ripe, the BJP can grant conditional statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and give it a Hindu chief minister for the very first time.