On the 27th of December 2022, the Election Commission of India announced delimitation for the 126 assembly constituencies and 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Assam, with immediate effect from January 1. This announcement prohibited the creation of new administrative units in the state, while the EC has made it clear there would be no increase in seats but boundaries of some constituencies would get redrawn.
The team of the Election Commission under the leadership of Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar was in Assam recently to check the ongoing delimitation exercise of the state. The exercise has been on hold for the last 14 years. The last delimitation of the state took place in 1976. Last year, the EC announced the delimitation exercise of assembly and parliamentary constituencies of Assam using 2001 as the base year.
Conducting a Press Conference in Guwahati on Wednesday, Kumar said that there will be no change in the number of constituencies in Assam, it will remain 126 for Assembly and 14 for Parliament. The Chief Election Commissioner admitted that there have been concerns raised by the opposition for using 2001 census figures and questions were raised for not using the last census which is 2011.
The delimitation exercise in Assam comes at a time when the debate regarding the National Register of Citizens that got published on 31st August 2019 is still on. The final draft of the NRC excluded 19.22 lakh people out of nearly 3.3 crore applicants which is 6% of the state’s population. Interestingly the BJP also expressed displeasure regarding the final numbers of the NRC at that time.
To conduct the process of delimitation, the Parliament first needs to enact a Delimitation Act under Article 82 and Clause (3) of Article 170 of the Constitution of India. Once the Act comes into effect, the Union government creates a Delimitation Commission, which gets the power to redraw the boundaries of each Lok Sabha and Assembly constituency, considering a recent census. This process is done to make sure each seat has an equal number of voters.
Why was the delimitation process in Assam paused for the last 14 years?
The panels of Delimitation were regularly established four times ( 1952, 1962,1972, and 2002) but it was stopped in `1976 due to instability in the state. In 2002 the last commission was set up but before it could complete its exercise, the delimitation process was postponed due to security risks. Not only in Assam this exercise was also stopped in Jammu & Kashmir for the same reason. The BJP was in the opposition at that time and they were opposing the exercise as they wanted it to happen only after the publication of NRC because they thought the NRC will clear out the illegal immigrants.
Opposition Questions Delimitation
The opposition parties of Assam are not happy with the Delimitation process in Assam. The largest opposition party the Congress refused to meet the officials of the Election Commission, who visited the state for consultations with political parties over the delimitation exercise. The Congress questions the ECI over the merger of districts ahead of the delimitation exercise, saying they will not seat with the ECI until and unless its concerns regarding the merger of districts are not addressed.
The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) President Bhupen Kumar Borah on Tuesday questioned the need for the merger of districts ahead of the delimitation exercise and said it could benefit the ruling party in the elections.
“We don’t oppose the delimitation process. We met some officials from ECI in the National capital on January 4 and sought clarification on some of our concerns. But despite their assurance, we are yet to receive any response from them. Till our concerns are addressed, we will not seat with the ECI team,” said the APCC Chief.
The opposition parties including the grand old party have raised questions regarding the need for conducting a delimitation exercise based on the 2001 census and not from the 2011 census. The TMC President Ripun Bora said, “ When we have data from the 2011 census, what is the need to conduct the exercise based on the 2001 census?”.
What is delimitation?
Delimitation is the process of redrawing the boundaries of the Assembly or Lok Sabha constituencies. It is done when demographic changes take place in a state, union territory, or at the national level