TODAY -

State delimitation & gerrymandering

Free Thinker *



The delimitation process in the State of Assam has begun. Hopefully, the same process will be initiated shortly in other remnaining Northeast states including Manipur. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has notified the start of the delimitation process in Assam for its Assembly and Parliatnentary constituencies on 27 Dec 2022.

Assam has not seen delimitation since 1976. Many have welcomed the move even though they don't understand the reason for using the 2001 census instead of the latest available 2011 census data. Just before the ECI restrains the changes in the administrative units from New Year 2023, the Assam Government merged four districts together. Mama ji says it is done due to administrative exigencies.

But the political adversaries say that it has been done so that gerrymandering is made possible in favour of his Party. By the way, what is gerrymandering?

It is nothing but political manipulation while redrawing the boundaries of a political unit or district or constituency so that a particular political party electorally benefits in elections. This term is named aft. an American politician Elbridge Gerry who indulged in such manipulation in the Boston area (the USA) when he was the Governor of Massachusetts.

Delimitation is a process of rearranging the boundaries of State Assembly and Lok Sabha seats taking into consideration the latest census; it is to ensure a somewhat equal number of voters in each seat. The area of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies is required to be changed after a certain period of time to ensure that each constituency has approximately the same size of the population.

The intrinsic idea is that each vote carries the same value in every constituency. Apart from demographic considerations other things are also taken care of in the delimitation process, like geographical issues, connectivity and administrative matters etc.

While the process of delimitation was undergoing in the country from 2002 to 2008, J & K, and a few northeastern states were excluded citing various reasons including security concerns and demographic challenges. Constitutionally the boundaries of the constituencies are supposed to be updated after every census.

However, after the amendments of 1976 and 2001 delimitation has been made an exercise to be conducted every 25 years. Delimitation exercises were done in 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002. The next is due in 2026. Some states were exempted from undertaking the delimitation process in 2002-2008 due to various reasons; the exempted states were Manipur, J&K, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

In 2020 the GoI has set up a Delimitation Commission headed by Justice Desai for the left out States including Manipur. After a year or so the government omitted the northeast states and decided to complete the process in J&K first.

According to Section 8A of the Representation of People Act, 2050, delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur or Nagaland.(1) If the President is satisfied that the situation and the conditions prevailing in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur or Nagaland are conducive for the conduct of the delimitation exercise, he may, by order, rescind the deferment order issued under the provisions of section 10A of the Delimitation Act, 2002 (33 of 2002) in relation to that State, and provide for the conduct of delimitation exercise in the State by the Election Commission.

Now, the delimitation process is being started in Assam and the remaining States will also follow. The process of delimitation in Manipur is likely to take place soon or later, Internal work might have started. Without bias to any community or ethnic group, our delimitation may also be conducted on the basis of the 2001 census because there were flaws in the 2011 census (reportedly).

Judiciary too took cognizance of the discrepancies. Then it will be prudent on our part to conduct our delimitation based 2001 census. Assam is doing the same, maybe because of an incomplete NRC. Again, we are not going to change the number of seats as mandated. However, the number of reserved constituencies may be increased within the existing number of seats.

It all depends on the amicable arrangement. As per the existing law, the population is going to be the main criterion for redrawing the boundary of the constituencies. However, in our case - geography, administrative convenience, security, ethnic composition etc., must be taken into consideration in addition to the indispensable criterion of population.

By consensus, while doing the rearrangement, we may somehow manage to maintain the status quo and that will sustain the hill-valley equation. Police and Bureaucracy are seemingly in the hands of the hill people and political power largely rests with the valley. This innocuous assessment possibly holds water.

This balance is good for the people as it ensures a kind of check and balance system. Therefore, I am in favour of gerrymandering - not in favour of a particular Party but certainly in favour of Manipur for maintaining is unity and integrity.

What about having a reserved constituency in the middle of Imphal city and an unreserved constituency in the hills an input for gerrymandering and just for the sake of saving the SSte from balkanization?


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 14 2023 .



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