EC’s final delimitation list for Assam gets mixed reactions - Hindustan Times
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EC’s final delimitation list for Assam gets mixed reactions

Aug 12, 2023 03:30 PM IST

The Opposition All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) alleged that while the delimitation process would benefit the BJP, the reorganisation of the constituencies has led to a decrease in as many as nine assembly seats in which Muslim voters were in the majority or played a decisive role.

The final delimitation order for assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Assam released by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday has evoked mixed reactions from political parties and organisations in the state.

Election Commission of India (Representative Photo)
Election Commission of India (Representative Photo)

The EC in its order retained 126 assembly and 14 parliamentary seats based on the 2001 census and revised the names of 19 assembly segments and one Lok Sabha seat while reserving 19 assembly and two Lok Sabha seats for scheduled tribes (STs) and nine assembly and one Lok Sabha seats for scheduled castes (SCs).

Commenting on delimitation order, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the government had given suggestions to the election commission, some of which have been accepted by the election commission.

“The EC has completed its task and announced the final order. I can’t comment on it immediately as I am yet to study it. We had given several suggestions to the EC, some of which have been accepted. A formal reaction on the order will be given on Sunday,” Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in the state has been maintaining that the delimitation process would secure the interests of indigenous Assamese from “illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh”, which the Assam Accord of 1985 signed after a six-year agitation and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) seeking to identify non-citizens in the state, which was updated in 2019, failed to achieve.

When the EC published the delimitation draft in June this year, CM Sarma had stated that the indigenous people of Assam would be dominant in 102 seats. Whereas, as per the final EC order, assembly seats in the Bodoland territorial region and the autonomous district of West Karbi Anglong – both indigenous tribes – have only increased by four and one seats, respectively. Areas of several assembly and parliamentary seats have been reorganised by the fresh delimitation exercise.

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord states that “constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards” would be provided to protect, preserve and promote the “cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.

In July 2019, a high-level committee was set up by the Centre to facilitate the implementation of Clause 6. The committee submitted its recommendations to the Assam government in February 2020. The report and its recommendations are yet to be implemented.

In 2015, the process to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam, which was first published in 1951 to identify immigrants in the state, was undertaken under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

In August 2019, the final list, which excluded 1.9 million applicants, was made public. But the list is yet to be notified by the Registrar General of India and several petitions opposing the list and seeking a review — including one by the Assam government — are pending in the Supreme Court.

Expressing concerns, the leader of opposition in state assembly Debabrata Saikia said, “I don’t think any of the suggestions put forth by Congress were included by EC in the final order. This delimitation process will surely benefit the ruling BJP. Surprisingly, in my assembly seat of Nazira, one Muslim-dominated panchayat, which has a village of upper caste Hindus as well, was shifted to a neighbouring seat in the fresh reorganisation.”

The Opposition All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) alleged that while the delimitation process would benefit the BJP, the reorganisation of the constituencies has led to a decrease in as many as nine assembly seats in which Muslim voters were in the majority or played a decisive role.

“I am yet to see the exact details of the order. But due to the delimitation exercise the number of seats in which Muslims can play a decisive role has decreased by 9. It seems the process was undertaken to benefit the Congress and the EC even disregarded a writ pending in Supreme Court on the issue before announcing the final order,” said AIUDF MLA Md. Aminul Islam.

Meanehile, the EC order was welcomed by the state’s student body, the All Assam Students Union (AASU), which stated that it would secure the interests of Assam’s indigenous populations.

“We wanted the delimitation process. In the final order, while some of the suggestions regarding the change of names of certain constituencies were accepted by EC, we are unhappy that it didn’t consider others. We have to study the order in detail but am sure it will protect the rights of indigenous people,” said Samujjal Bhattacharya, chief adviser, AASU.

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