Delimitation Woes

election commission of india

Assam has been in uproar over an haphazard process of dilimitation of constituencies and for a couple of weeks erupting into cries of frustration and rage over the way it has resulted in strange and absurd outcomes.Entire constituencies some going back more than seventy years have disappeared and many brand-new ones have been created.Entire communities have lost their address,odd fragments seized from one constituency has been by force amalgamated with another upsetting the expectations of voters,geographical proximity and historical continuity.Akhil Gogoi of Raijor Dal,Manoranjan Talukdar of CPI(M) have lost their constituencies.Sarbhog has been for at least thirty years been the stronghold of the CPI(M).Certain SC and ST constituencies have lost their identity and certain new ones have acquired that label.Certain communities claim they have lost their representation in the house with the drastic revision of borders and areas.Altogether a huge mess.All in the name of delimitation.

Immediately after the announcement of the draft proposals of delimitation Assam Chief Minister said that the future of the ‘indigenous people of Assam’ has been safeguarded! People have wondered how he could be so cocksure about it,and some have accused him of collusion with the authority that has carried out the exercise.

But the one accusation that has stuck is that by ‘indigenous’ the CM actually has actually meant ‘Hindu’.If so then the outcome of the bizarre experiment is made to order for smooth passage of communal polarization of votes.

There had been a decision several decades ago in Parliament that delimitation(required by population growth) would be deferred till 2026.It has been hastily retracted by BJP who have foisted it on an unprepared and unwilling electorate.Further in stead of 2011 elections the delimitation the last census the records of which are available,the delimitation has been based on an earlier,2001 census,which smacks of bias.

For all these reasons the people were persuaded that the entire exercise was illegal and its validity questionable.But the Supreme Court in its judgment partially delivered on the 24th July chose not to address that issue,but a different one,whether the Election Commission which has carried it out in stead of the original authority mandated by the Constitution to perform such exercises legitimately. The SC held that since by an act such delegation of authority has been made possible,the exercise was legally valid.But it has deferred by three weeks its final decision on whether the act enabling the delegation was itself valid.People are awaiting that decision with bated breath.

Apart from the ruling party and the AASU,which has oddly retreated from its firmly held earlier position that without finalization of the NRC there could not be a valid delimitation,there are few takers for the results of the delimitation. The Leader of the opposition Debabrata Saikia,who will lose his constituency as a result of the delimitation has opposed it and twelve opposition parties have united on a plank opposing it.The long term adviser and confidant of AASU has openly denounced it and condemned AASU for accepting it on communal grounds.

One thing is certain.While it will help the ruling party that has governmental powers and administrative help to spread its influence throughout each newly revised constituency in the days ahead,it will put opposition into disarray and disrupt their organised efforts to reach out to the electorate.A very disturbing prospect turning the election into an unfair competition.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

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