Jammu got what it wanted – what next ?

Sahil Mahajan 

The second draft of the Delimitation Commission   on Jammu and Kashmir has sprung some surprises if it is viewed from the previous landscape of the Assembly and  Parliamentary constituencies. Some  changes were inevitable, as the status quo that existed until October 30, 2019 had to go.  That did, as the changes announced on August 5 that year – J&K became a Union Territory, as  Ladakh acquired the similar status  as its long-ending demand, articulated by Buddhists was  accepted to convert the  cold desert as UT. 

Practically speaking, there was no escape from the changes  in the constituencies as that was the mandate of the Delimitation Commission. It was to add seven seats to the  83 seats of the Assembly after four seats  of Ladakh were deducted from the J&K state’s legislative Assembly of 87. The area and the population of the previous constituencies had to undergo change, and that is what the Delimitation Commission has done as per its own understanding and the parameters it applied to make the recommendations. As and when the changes are effected, there are bound to be reactions, but what has surprised the most is the split of Jammu Lok Sabha seat and that of extension of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat into the south of Pir Panjal range of Himalayas, for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, Anantnag  Lok Sabha will straddle on the two sides of the  Pir Panjal range. This is not just the extension or merger of the areas, but it has also brought about the mix of ethnic identities. It can be assessed in two ways –the parts of the Muslim majority Valley have been merged with the two Muslim majority districts of Rajouri and  Poonch of Jammu region . The second  part is that the  two major districts of Jammu region , which border Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir , is both  a strategic and sensitive issue .And, this too, is a  well-acknowledged fact that south Kashmir since late 1989 has been the hub of  Pakistan sponsored and stoked secessionism.. The patriotism of  Rajouri and Poonch  people has been put to extra test in the electoral field . Time will tell, how this experiment will play out.

Jammu region has its own aspirations in the  redrawn electoral field . BJP, though  claiming to be aloof   from the constitutionally mandated Delimitation Commission , has hailed the recommendations . That, in many ways, means that the party is happy with what all changes have been made, and it is doubly happy by the irritation of the Kashmir-centric parties over the recommendations . This shows that the party thinks that the new electoral field will play  in its favour, and that if analysed further translates into  its long-held promise of giving a Jammu chief minister to Jammu and Kashmir. If that happens that will overturn the history , because barring Ghulam  Nabi Azad, all other chief ministers have been from the Valley.

This  hoped-for  scenario  would be like dream come true for the region, particularly those from the plains  who had a grouse that their voice was not heard out by the rulers so far, so, they want to be part of the ruling class . That would be a moment of pride in itself.  Jammu, having its own chief minister, is in essence, connected with the Dogra pride ,which they think did not get its due place all these  years. Now, as the electoral map has been laid out  by the Delimitation Commission, BJP has a chance to prove itself to be the real representative of the people.