Wednesday marked the beginning of a three-day visit to Assam by the Election Commission of India (EC) to conduct public hearings on draught delimitation proposals for Assembly and Parliament constituencies in the state.
The Commission stated that it had received more than 780 comments on the draught delimitation proposal.
— Spokesperson ECI (@SpokespersonECI) July 19, 2023
According to the Assam CEO office, the suggestions and objections ranged from residents appreciating the inclusion of their village in a reserved constituency to opposition party politicians calling for the delimitation process to be halted.
The European Commission (EC) published the draught delimitation proposal on June 20 and solicited public comments until July 11.
The three-member commission, comprised of Chief Election Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, Election Commissioners Anup Chandra Pandey and Arun Goel, commenced their visit to Assam on Wednesday. As part of the delimitation consultation process, the Commission will convene public hearings in Guwahati for stakeholders from across the state, according to the statement.
The EC delegation met with public, political party, and community group representatives from the districts of Udalgiri, Kamrup (M), and Karbi Anglong, among others.
Congress MLA from Boko, Nandita Das, stated that the exercise should be conducted by a Delimitation Commission instead of the Election Commission and should be based on the 2011 Census after the final National Register of Citizens has been published. According to a compendium of petitions the Assam Chief Electoral Officer released, she also requested that the delimitation process be “cancelled.”
Several of the petitions included in the compilation released by the Assam CEO office advocated for the relocation of certain villages from one constituency to another in the interest of “public convenience” and continuity. Some comments “welcomed” the addition of certain villages to a reserved constituency, while others demanded that the entire process be halted.
The Udalgiri District Bar Association, among others, “requested that delimitation be postponed until 2026”; the president of the International Koch Rajbongshi Association expressed “opposition to the current delimitation”; and the chairman of the Bodoland Realisation Forum voiced “objection to the delimitation exercise.”
Ten opposition politicians petitioned the Supreme Court last week to challenge the delimitation methodology.
In December 2022, after receiving a letter from the government instructing it to begin the delimitation process, the EC initiated the procedure. The last time constituencies were delineated in Assam was in 1976, as the state was excluded from the last national delimitation exercise in 2002 due to security concerns.
What the EC draft says
In accordance with Articles 170 and 82 of the Constitution, the number of Assembly and Lok Sabha seats in Assam would remain at 126 and 14, respectively, until the first Census after 2026 is published. Based on the 2001 Census and the Constitution, the proposed delimitation increased the number of reserved Assembly seats for Scheduled Tribes from 16 to 19, and for Scheduled Castes from eight to nine. The draught also reserved two of Assam’s fourteen Lok Sabha seats for Scheduled Tribes and one for Scheduled Castes.