Delimitation panel report, Article 370: Kashmir parties carry out Jammu outreach

A Jammu-based political leader said people of Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal always found themselves closer to Kashmir than Jammu.
Kashmir-based political parties  denounce delimitation commission's proposal (Photo | File)
Kashmir-based political parties denounce delimitation commission's proposal (Photo | File)

SRINAGAR: Ahead of the Delimitation Commission’s draft proposal suggesting six additional Assembly seats for Jammu and only one for the Valley, Kashmir-based parties, especially National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad have gone on a political offensive in Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal range of Jammu to garner support for their narrative, especially on restoration of Article 370.

A Jammu-based political leader said people of Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal always found themselves closer to Kashmir than Jammu.

“Kashmir-based parties, especially NC and PDP, never treated us as their own. But post Article 370 revocation and especially after Delimitation Commission’s proposal, they seem to have realised the importance of the region,” he said.

Parties are seeking to keep their support base intact in six districts — Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Reasi, Rajouri and Poonch — of Jammu region. Of the six additional seats proposed by Delimitation Commission in Jammu region, one each would be allotted to the districts of Kishtwar, Samba, Kathua, Doda, Rajouri and Udhampur/Reasi. The proposed additional seat in the Valley would be added to Kupwara district in north Kashmir.

In erstwhile J&K state, Assembly had 87 seats — 46 in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu and four in Ladakh. After bifurcation of state into two Union Territories and creation of Ladakh UT, J&K Assembly was left with 83 seats. If Delimitation Commission sticks to its proposals, there will be 90 seats in J&K Assembly — 47 for Kashmir and 43 for Jammu.

Both NC and PDP are keen to reach out to people of six districts of Jammu region. NC vice-president and former CM Omar Abdullah visited the region from November 26 to December 2 and addressed at least eight major public gatherings and party conventions. In contrast, he addressed only half-a-dozen party conventions in the Valley from December 5 to 16.

Omar’s father and NC president, Farooq Abdullah, visited Jammu from October 20-26 and addressed at least six meetings and party conventions, and another party convention from December 6-9.

Surprisingly, the NC president has addressed only a few party workers’ gatherings in Kashmir, where no major public gatherings have been held by any party in the last two years.

PDP chief and former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti, who has on many occasions been disallowed by authorities from addressing party workers in Kashmir, has also travelled to Chenab Valley, Pir Panjal and Jammu, and addressed at least 10 public gatherings and party workers’ meetings.

Jammu-based political commentator Rekha Choudhary said parties were preparing for elections and as electioneering-like situation did not prevail in Kashmir, the only place they could go to was Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal, where they felt they needed to consolidate their support base.

“In main Jammu, NC and PDP don’t have much space. They are seeing some space in six districts of Jammu region and want to consolidate there. If they want to show their visibility, where else can they do it? They can’t show it in Kashmir because that kind of narrative is missing there,” she said, adding that Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley would be intensely contested areas.

In 2014 Assembly polls, PDP won three seats in Jammu region (Rajouri-Poonch districts) and NC three (two in Jammu and one in Poonch), while Congress won five (two from Reasi, one each from Kishtwar, Banihal and Poonch districts). BJP won all its 25 seats in the 2014 polls from Jammu region.

Kashmir-based political commentator Noor Baba said NC and PDP know Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal have social and cultural proximity to Kashmir, and are trying to build support base there, which is historically an extension of Kashmir. He said it will be difficult for them to make inroads in main Jammu, but it is possible in Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal.

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