The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill of 2023, following approval from the Rajya Sabha and the President, is set to augment the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly's capacity to 95 seats, totalling 119 seats, with 24 reserved for Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK).
During the ongoing winter session of Parliament, the Lok Sabha endorsed the bill after Union Home Minister Amit Shah pledged a terrorism-free J&K by 2026 and anticipated Prime Minister Narendra Modi's return in 2024.
This amendment signifies the inclusion of at least two Kashmiri Pandit (KP) MLAs in the Jammu and Kashmir House. Notably, there were no KP MLAs from 2008 to 2014 and from 2014 to 2018, while earlier assemblies had one KP MLA each.
The Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill proposes the nomination of a PoJK refugee and two women to the Assembly.
Elections will be conducted for 90 Assembly seats. The Lieutenant Governor will nominate five individuals, including two Kashmiri Pandits, two women, and one PoJK refugee with voting rights, thereby constituting a House strength of 95, with a majority mark of 48. However, with 24 seats reserved for PoJK, the Assembly's total strength will remain at 119 until PoJK is reintegrated with India.
There has been a demand from people in Jammu to unfreeze at least one-third of the 24 seats reserved for PoJK and allocate them to those who migrated from occupied Kashmir in 1947.
Another bill, the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill of 2023, aims to provide reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Jammu and Kashmir, replacing the existing four per cent reservation for Other Social Castes (OSCs).
While the percentage for OBC reservations is pending, it's expected to be in double digits. The Central government also intends to introduce a Women Reservation Bill for Jammu and Kashmir, aiming to reserve approximately 33 per cent of seats in the Assembly, roughly 29-30, with provisions for SC and ST women.
Additionally, two more bills related to Jammu and Kashmir—granting ST status to specific ethnic tribes and including Valmikis in the list of Scheduled Castes—are likely to be presented to Parliament for approval during the winter session.
The passage of these bills will permanently alter the power dynamics in Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu, where the BJP holds substantial support, is expected to emerge politically stronger.
With an increase of six seats by the Delimitation Commission in Jammu compared to only one in Kashmir, and five nominations to the assembly by the Lieutenant Governor, the region's voters will wield a significantly greater influence in forming the next government.