JAMMU, Feb 5: Union Home Minister Amit Shah will introduce a bill in the Parliament next week bringing the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir at par with Delhi and Puducherry to grant voting rights to MLAs of the J&K Legislature in the election of President and Rajya Sabha seats.
The bill has been necessitated as erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh by the Central Government on August 5, 2019. As Jammu and Kashmir was granted the Legislature, it will be brought at par with New Delhi and Puducherry and its MLAs, whenever they are elected, will get right to vote in the election of President and Rajya Sabha seats.
There are nine Union Territories in the country including Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi, Puducherry, Ladakh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadar & Nagar Haveli, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep. First three have the Legislatures. Rest six including Ladakh don’t have the Assembly.
The UTs without Legislatures have representation in Lok Sabha but not in Rajya Sabha and no say in the election of the President of India.
“The Union Home Minister will move the bill in the Parliament early next week to bring the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir at par with Delhi and Puducherry by virtue of which the MLAs of J&K will get right to vote in the election for the President of India as well as Rajya Sabha,” sources said.
The bill is likely to be through as the BJP-led NDA Government enjoys majority in both Houses of the Parliament.
Election for the next President is due in July 2022.
However, four Rajya Sabha seats from Jammu and Kashmir will fall vacant this month with sitting members completing their term by February 15. The Rajya Sabha members from J&K include Leader of Opposition in RS Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Shamsher Singh Manhas (BJP), Fayyaz Ahmad Mir and Nazir Ahmad Laway (both PDP).
Jammu and Kashmir will get same number of four Rajya Sabha seats but elections for them will be held only after the elected Assembly is in place in the Union Territory. Assembly elections can be held in the UT only after completion of exercise for delimitation of Assembly constituencies for which a Delimitation Commission has already been constituted.
The Rajya Sabha will bid farewell to all four retiring members from Jammu and Kashmir along with others on February 8. While Mir and Manhas will complete their term on February 10, Azad and Laway will retire on February 15.
All four had been elected in the elections held in February 2015 during Governor’s Rule after Assembly elections in November-December 2014. The PDP-BJP had formed the Government on March 1, 2015 after stitching an alliance as well as the Common Minimum Programme.
Three members-two from PDP and one BJP-were elected while Azad was the lone Opposition member to make it to the Rajya Sabha with the support of National Conference and some Independents.
After completion of term of four Rajya Sabha members, Jammu and Kashmir will have five Lok Sabha members in the Parliament including Union Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, both BJP, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, all three from National Conference.
Ladakh, now a separate Union Territory, is represented in Lok Sabha by BJP MP Jamyang Tsering Namgayal.
Congress and PDP will lose representation in the Parliament from Jammu and Kashmir with the retirement of Azad, Laway and Mir as these two parties have no Lok Sabha members from the Union Territory.
According to sources, the final authority to conduct Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir vests with the Election Commission of India. However, for holding the elections, the exercise for delimitation of Assembly constituencies has to be completed.
Jammu and Kashmir has been granted 90-member Assembly.