The Election Commission’s (EC) draft proposal for the delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Assam has been met with mixed reactions. Opposition parties have lambasted the EC, alleging that it is partisan towards the ruling BJP. Questions have also been raised over the methodology and timing of the draft. The BJP and its allies, meanwhile, have welcomed the Election Commission’s delimitation proposal. The draft proposal was released on 20 June and the EC has invited suggestions and objections to the draft proposal until 11 July, following which an EC team will revisit the state for a public hearing. The delimitation proposal maintains Assam’s total Lok Sabha and assembly seats at 14 and 126 respectively. However, it raises the number of assembly seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes from eight to nine, and the Scheduled Tribes’ seats from 16 to 19. Additionally, the boundaries or nomenclature of some Lok Sabha and assembly seats have been redefined. While certain previous assembly constituencies no longer figure in the list, new seats have emerged.
The delimitation exercise is a complex and sensitive one, and it is important that all stakeholders are consulted and that the process is transparent. It is also important that the delimitation is done in a fair and impartial manner, without any political bias. Many observers in Nagaland are keenly observing the ongoing delimitation exercise in Assam for obvious reasons. The EC deferred delimitation in Nagaland in 2008 citing “the peculiar tribal configuration, which makes it difficult to define compact constituencies” as the reason for the deferral. The ECI has not yet announced any plans to conduct a delimitation exercise in Nagaland. However, the state’s population has seen significant population growth and demographic change since 2008 and there is a growing demand for delimitation. In 2020, the EC announced that it would conduct a delimitation exercise in the four northeastern states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. However, the exercise was deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As per unconfirmed reports, the next delimitation exercise in Nagaland is likely to be held in 2026/2027.
The Assam draft delimitation proposal has raised a number of concerns, including the use of 2001 Census figures which allegedly would give the BJP an unfair advantage, and the redrawing of boundaries of certain constituencies especially the Kaliabor Lok Sabha constituency which is a Congress stronghold. Another objection is that it does not adequately take into account the interests of the indigenous Assamese people.
These concerns need to be addressed in the final delimitation proposal. The EC should also take into account the objections and suggestions of all stakeholders before finalizing the proposal. The delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies is a critical exercise that has a bearing on the electoral landscape of Assam. It is important that the process is done in a fair and impartial manner, without any political bias. The final delimitation proposal should be acceptable to all stakeholders and should not be seen as partisan towards any particular party. The EC has a responsibility to ensure that the delimitation exercise is conducted in a fair and impartial manner. The EC should take into account the concerns and objections of all stakeholders and should ensure that the final delimitation proposal is acceptable to all. All eyes are on Assam delimitation because it is seen as a precursor to the ensuing Nagaland delimitation exercise.