Proposed Assam delimitation may affect electoral fortunes of leaders

By, Guwahati
Jun 22, 2023 12:57 AM IST

The draft proposal on the fresh delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Assam could affect the electoral fortunes of some senior leaders.

The draft proposal on the fresh delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Assam released by the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday could affect the electoral fortunes of some senior leaders in the state across the political spectrum, with several constituencies being reshaped, and the number of reserved constituencies increasing. (ALSO READ: EC calls for increasing Assam’s reserved seats in draft proposal)

The draft proposal of assembly constituencies in Assam released by EC could affect electoral fortunes of some senior leader in the state. (PTI)
The draft proposal of assembly constituencies in Assam released by EC could affect electoral fortunes of some senior leader in the state. (PTI)

To be sure, at the aggregate level, there is no increase in the number of assembly or Lok Sabha seats in the state.

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According to the draft, 24 assembly constituencies have been reshaped (and assigned new names); the number of reserved seats has gone up from 24 (eight for scheduled castes and 16 for scheduled tribes) to 28 (nine for scheduled castes and 19 for scheduled tribes). There’s also been a churn in the reserved seats -- six seats are currently reserved for SC, and the same number of seats reserved for ST will become unreserved if the draft is accepted, and 9 ST seats and 7 SC seats that are at present that are unreserved will become reserved.

For Lok Sabha, the number of reserved seats (2 ST, 1 SC) remains the same—but Karimganj, which is reserved for SC, would become unreserved and neighbouring Silchar become a SC reserved seat.

Assam has a total of 14 Lok Sabha and 126 assembly seats.

“The draft has carried good news for land, people and future of Assam. This will protect the rights of the indigenous people of the state. Some people are unhappy that their seats are affected. But we should look at the larger interest of the state instead of individual gain or loss,” chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Wednesday.

Interestingly, Sarma’s own Jalukbari constituency has been redrawn. Unlike earlier, the constituency will now include 11 wards of Guwahati Municipal Corporation.

ALSO READ: Why delimitation in Assam is important

The delimitation exercise was carried out based on the 2001 census. The last delimitation was done in Assam in 1976. While the 2002 delimitation of assembly seats was carried out across India, it was not done in several northeastern states and Jammu & Kashmir. That is being done now. The next delimitation of Lok Sabha seats across the country is scheduled for 2026.

Among those ministers from the BJP who will lose the seats they currently hold if the draft is accepted are industry minister Chandra Mohan Patowary (Dharmapur), excise minister Parimal Suklabaidya (Dhalai) and panchayat and rural development minister Ranjeet Kumar Dass (Patacharkuchi); their seats will cease to exist.

Handloom and textile minister Urkhao Gwra Brahma, who is from the BJP’s alliance partner United Peoples’ Party Liberal (UPPL) and represents Chapaguri constituency, will also lose his seat. So will his UPPL colleague and Assam assembly speaker Biswajit Daimary, who won from the Paneri constituency.

BJP MLA from Hajo, Suman Haripriya, will lose her seat as it has been marked as reserved for an SC candidate. A similar fate awaits Congress MLA from Boko, Nandita Das, as the seat, which was earlier reserved for SCs, will now be reserved for STs. Congress MLA Bharat Chandra Narah’s Naoboicha constituency will now be reserved for SC candidates.

Constituencies represented by former BJP minister and state unit chief Siddhartha Bhattacharya (Guwahati East), senior AGP leader and former minister Ramendra Narayan Kalita (Guwahati West), Congress MLA Rekibuddin Ahmed (Chaygaon), All India United Democratic Front MLA Sirajuddin Ajmal (Jamunamukh), AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam (Dhing), Congress MLAs Zakir Hussain Sikdar (Sarukhetri) and Pradeep Sarkar (Abhayapuri West) will also cease to exist.

The delimitation has understandably caused a political stir.

“We suspect that this exercise was done to target AIUDF and religious minorities. There seems to be no rationale or logic behind it as some villages have been removed from existing panchayats and geographical contiguity and administrative factors have also been overlooked,” said AIUDF MLA from Dhing, Aminul Islam, who is slated to lose his seat.

AIUDF president and Lok Sabha MP Badaruddin Ajmal said his party won’t support the changes and accused the BJP of manipulating the draft for electoral gains. He said the party will approach the EC to demand changes in the draft.

“It seems that the draft was prepared in a hurry by EC under pressure from BJP and specifically CM Sarma. A petition seeking a stay in the delimitation process is pending in Supreme Court, and the next date of hearing in it is slated for next month. But the draft was released before that,” said Congress state unit president Bhupen Kumar Borah.

“It’s wrong and baseless of opposition parties to point fingers at EC, which is an autonomous body which acts on its own and not under directives of a political party or the government in power. If opposition parties, see flaws in the draft, they should approach the EC during the hearing or go to court. The delimitation process will safeguard the indigenous people of Assam, and we welcome it,” said BJP spokesperson Roopam Goswami.

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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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