Top sources in the Election Commission of India (ECI) said on Saturday that the Assembly elections in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are likely to be deferred till 2021.
Sources in the ECI said the process of delimitation of Assembly seats is expected to begin by the end of November and the process would take around 14 months to complete.
"The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is expected to write to the ECI after October 31, 2019 to start the process of delimitation for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
"The MHA communication can not be sent to the ECI for delimitation before October 31 because constitutionally, the bifurcation of J&K into the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir will come into effect that day.
"Once the ECI receives the mandatory communication from the MHA, the process of delimitation will begin. It would take around a month to finalise the sub-committees and schedules for undertaking the process.
"The EC will complete the delimitation process in 14 months in 9-10 phases as it is mandatory to complete all the required processes and procedures to hold the process," top sources in the ECI said.
This means that Assembly elections in J&K will have to wait till 2021, till the ECI formally announces the completion of the delimitation process.
After the Ladakh division separates from Jammu and Kashmir, the total number of Assembly seats will come down from 87 to 83 since the four seats of Leh, Kargil, Zanskar and Nubra would no longer be part of the J&K legislative assembly.
At present, the Valley has 46 assembly seats while the Jammu division has 37. It is likely that since the delimitation process would take into account the geographical area of the two regions, Jammu division would benefit by the creation of seven assembly seats through the delimitation process.
This would take the total number of seats in the legislative assembly to 90 with the Valley retaining its 46 seats and the Jammu region getting 44 seats.
Since the abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 will make nearly 3 lakh West Pakistan settlers eligible to vote for the legislative assembly, it is also likely that some of the seven seats being added to the Jammu division would be reserved for these settlers.
As per Article 35A, which no longer exists now, the West Pakistan settlers were not entitled to vote in the Assembly elections while they were eligible to vote in the Lok Sabha polls.