by Tasavur Mushtaq
SRINAGAR: In the first fortnight of February, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is going to lose representation in the Council of states, the second time in the last 27 years. This is going to happen because the four Rajya Sabha members will retire leaving the union territory without representation in the House of Elders. The loss of representation is because these berths cannot be filled due to non-existence of the J&K legislative assembly, the Electoral College for these polls.
Pertinently, the assembly was dissolved in November 2018, by then-governor Satya Pal Malik. However, the governor’s rule was imposed in June 2018, following the collapse of the BJPDP government led by Mehbooba Mufti.
The loss of representation came to the fore when the Rajya Sabha issued a notification on the retirement of four members from J&K including Leader of Opposition and Congress stalwart, Ghulam Nabi Azad.
As per the notification, the four members representing J&K are Azad (Congress), Shamshir Singh Manhas (BJP), Fayaz Ahmad Mir (PDP) and Nazir Ahmad Laway (expelled PDP leader). Among the four, Azad and Laway will complete their six-year term on February 15, while Mir and Manhas will retire on February 10.
As per the process and procedure, the appointment of new members could be done through the voting by the assembly members. As there is no assembly in J&K currently and no notification issued so far by the central government regarding holding of assembly elections, it seems the seats are likely to remain vacant for an extended period.
With no way near holding assembly elections, as per the experts, Jammu and Kashmir’s representation in the council of states in the Parliament is to remain “suspended” till the next Assembly elections.
After the culmination of the present term of members, PDP would be the only party from the place not to have any representation in Parliament as they have no members in Lok Sabha. However, National Conference and BJP have three and two members each in Lok Sabha from J&K. Whereas, Ladakh, now a separate UT has its own MP in the Lok Sabha.
27 Years Later
It was in 1994. The peak of militancy in Kashmir, when J&K was not represented in Rajya Sabha. As the erstwhile state was under President’s rule from 1989 to 1996, the Rajya Sabha members elected in 1988 had retired in 1992 and 1994.
In 1992, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Shabir Ahmad Salaria retired, while as in 1994, Ghulam Rasool Matto and Rajendra Prasad Jain had retired after completing their six years term. As the term of members came to an end, due to the imposition of President’s rule, vacancies could not be filled due to the absence of an assembly. Thus, there was no representation in the Rajya Sabha for nearly two and a half years.
But, post-1996 elections when Dr Farooq Abdullah became chief minister, Dr Karan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Saif-ud-din Soz and Sharif-ud-din Shariq were elected to the Rajya Sabha in November 1996.
Comparing the situation, political observers believe that today after 27 years there is almost the same situation. “What is better to talk about if we have to compare the 1990s with 2021,” asked an observer, on conditions of anonymity.