Delimitation exercise in Assam: Cong stays away from ECI stock-taking meet
ECI delegation conducts a meeting with the chief electoral officer, Assam, in Guwahati

Guwahati: Even as more than 55 organisations and 10 national and state-recognised political parties met the visiting delegation of the Election Commission of India (ECI) here on Monday to share their views on the ongoing delimitation process, the Assam Congress stayed away from the meeting.

Citing reasons for skipping the meeting that was scheduled with the ECI team in a city hotel on Monday morning, the Assam Congress, in a letter to the joint chief electoral officer, Assam, stated that the party has not received any acknowledgement to date from the chief election commissioner (ECI) to a memorandum submitted by the party on January 4, 2023.

A delegation of Assam Pradesh Congress, comprising the Assam PCC President, CLP and deputy CLP leaders, three Congress MPs of Assam, working presidents APCC, MLAs and former MLAs, met the chief election commissioner on January 4, 2023, in New Delhi and submitted a memorandum.

“The CEC heard the contents of the memorandum and assured to reply. But we have not received any reply from the CEC and so sent a reminder on February 8, 2023, to take appropriate action on our memorandum,” Borah stated in the letter to the joint CEO, Assam.

“Again, the Assam Pradesh Congress prayed for an appointment with the ECI in New Delhi preferably on March 22, 2023, but they denied the appointment to us. Since the issues mentioned in the memorandum submitted to CEC have not been addressed and we have not received any acknowledgement till today, therefore the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee has decided not to meet the visiting Election Commission of India in Guwahati today,” the letter read.

The ECI, however, has again invited the Congress to join the ongoing consultations with stakeholders on the delimitation process.

The ECI team, led by chief election commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar, arrived at the LGBI Airport here on Sunday evening for a stock-taking meeting/ground assessment.

The visiting poll delegation is currently taking views and inputs on the ongoing delimitation process from political parties, public representatives, members of civil society, social organisations and government officials.

Assam has 14 Lok Sabha constituencies and 126 Assembly constituencies. 

In December last year, the ECI announced the delimitation exercise of the Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in Assam on the basis of the 2001 census figures.

Notably, in the memorandum submitted to the ECI on January 4, 2023, the Assam Congress raised serious objections to the exercise of delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Assam.

“It is most humbly prayed that the proposed delimitation exercise should not be continued, as the situation in the year 2008, when the earlier delimitation process was stopped, has not witnessed any change. On the other hand, the delimitation exercise all over the country was conducted by constituting a delimitation commission and hence we make a further prayer to undertake the process of delimitation through a duly constituted delimitation commission and which should be based on the latest available census data if at any stage a consensus for such delimitation arises,” the memorandum to the CEC read.

“It is pertinent to note that while delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in the country was undertaken under the Delimitation Act, 2002, by the delimitation commission proposed there under, the state of Assam and other North Eastern states had seen wide-scale opposition to reliance on the 2001 census figures,” the memorandum read.

The party stated that there is a “likelihood of arousing “the sentiments of the people living in the state of Assam due to their apprehension that the ongoing delimitation in many electoral constituencies may result in the breakup of affiliation between the public and its representatives, change of boundaries thereof, which may cause alienation of different groups of tribes”.

It stated that representations have been made seeking for the exercise to be put in abeyance until the finality of the National Register of Citizens, Assam.

“Delimitation had “evoked strong opposition from all concerned” resulting in a large number of protests and over 113 agitational programmes organised by ethnic organisations including AASU, AAMSU, etc. There is the likelihood of breakdown of public order,” it read.

On the other hand, All India Trinamool Congress (Assam State Committee) has urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to postpone the ongoing delimitation exercise in Assam and carry out the process from 2026 along with the delimitation process in the country.

“The delimitation exercise for the entire country in respect of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies is due in 2026. Since we have waited for such a long time to complete the delimitation in Assam, we do not see any urgency to carry out this delimitation exercise only for three years at the cost of huge public money and precious time,” AITC (Assam State Committee) president Ripun Bora stated in a letter to the chief election commissioner, ECI.

“The delimitation commission postponed the delimitation exercise in Assam in 2008 on the basis of a consensus reached among the political parties. But it is very surprising that the Election Commission of India, all of a sudden, started the delimitation exercise in Assam without any prior consultation with the political parties, which was earlier postponed on the demand of political parties,” Bora, a former MP, stated in the letter to the CEC, ECI.

“The present delimitation exercise in Assam started on the basis of the population census report of 2001. It is not understood why the latest population census report was not taken into consideration,” the AITC (Assam) leader stated.

“The population census report of 2021 has not yet been published. If this delimitation exercise is carried out on the basis of the latest population census report available (2011) it would have been more effective because the present population data of the Legislative Assembly constituencies will help in properly adjusting the constituencies,” he stated.

“Normally, in the delimitation exercise as done in the past, we have seen an increase in Assembly constituencies. In the case of Assam, since 1972 (when the last delimitation was done), there has been no increase of Assembly constituencies,” he said.

“At present, considering the tremendous increase of population and voters compared to 1972, there is strong justification for the increase of Assam Assembly constituencies from the existing 126. But in this delimitation exercise, there is no provision for increasing the number of Assembly constituencies in the state,” Bora said.

Likewise, the Assam Jatiya Parishad also urged the EC to defer the delimitation exercise till 2026, by which the NRC exercise was also likely to be completed. As of now, petitions seeking re-verification of the NRC are pending in the Supreme Court. 

The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), however, requested the ECI to increase the number of constituencies.

Delimitation is the process of fixing limits or boundaries of the territorial constituencies in a country or a state with a legislative body.

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The commission for the delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, and Jammu and Kashmir was constituted on March 6, 2020.

The move to redraw the Assembly and parliamentary seats of Assam in accordance with Section 8A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, was initiated following a request from the Union law ministry.

Notably, the delimitation exercise had been kept on hold in Assam since 2008.

Also Read | Assam, Arunachal ministers meet to discuss border issues

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