New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting on June 24 with the political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir is about the delimitation exercise, which has started in the new Union Territory ahead of the assembly elections, sources said today, brushing off speculation about a restoration of statehood.
Though the government has promised that statehood will be restored to Jammu and Kashmir at an appropriate time, that time has not come yet. The meeting is an attempt by the Centre to seek political validation of the administrative exercise which started in the first week of June, they said as per NDTV.
The sources also conceded that while the issue of restoring statehood can be discussed, any such step will require sanction of parliament. There is also no question of restoring the special status which was granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, they added.
For now, the Centre is ready to begin the assembly election process for which the delimitation exercise has to be completed first.
The delimitation involves redrawing the boundaries of assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in a state or Union Territory.
The Delimitation Commission — formed last year and headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai — has already written to all the District Commissioners, seeking basic information.
Fourteen leaders from eight political parties from Jammu and Kashmir — including Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference — have been invited for the meeting on June 24, which will take place in Delhi. This will be the Prime Minister’s first interaction with all the political parties of Jammu and Kashmir since August 2019.
So far, a chunk of political leaders have boycotted the meetings. Leaders such as National Conference’s Farooq Adullah, Hasnanin Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone did not attend the meeting of the commission.
The PDP also held a meeting today to discuss the invitation. There has been no word on the decision yet.
In the meeting, the Prime Minister is likely to urge political leaders to take part in the delimitation exercise so that this can be done through consensus, the sources said. This will also send message to the international community that the government’s exercise has wider political support and sanction.
Jammu and Kashmir was placed under Central rule after the BJP ended its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti in June 2018. There has been no political process since. In August 2019, the Centre ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under the Constitution and bifurcated it into two Union territories.