Post Mortem

Delimitation, by Tribal Integrity?

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/19/2020 1:40:13 PM IST

 On 28th February, 2020, Union Ministry of Law and Justice issued an Order to ‘readjust the division’ of State Assembly and Lok Sabha boundaries in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, the States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland—with 2001 Census as the base year—although the cacophonic resistance everywhere is for 2011 Census. 

A week later, the same Ministry announced the formation of a Delimitation Commission—with Justice (Retd.) Ranjana Prakash Desai chairing the three-member commission, for a period of one year. 

Then came Coronavirus. 

At the fag-end of Lockdown 4.0—May 2020—the Delimitation Commissioner orders all Chief Electoral Officers to start preparing maps and statistical data. 

Delimitation formula is simply the ratio of seats and population. Mandated by Constitution (Article 82)— delimitation with incremental seats takes place every decade—in consonance with decadal publication of Census figures. But, so far, only three regular-calendar exercises have taken place. Delimitation with seat mutationtook place last with 1971 Census. 

In 1976, the 42nd Amendment Act put a complete ban on increasing Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assembly seats for a moratorium period of 24 years. In 2001, the due year, when Provisional Census was published, the Parliament further extended the freeze on seat mutation till the first Census after 2026—through the 84th Amendment Act. Increasing electoral seats for Indian Parliament and State Legislatures now awaits 2031 Census. By then, a study estimates, three states—Bihar, West Bengal and UP—will populate 33% of the total Lok Sabha seats. Representing the present 1.2 billion India is a huge task. A 1000 Lok Sabha seats—up from the present 543—is what Pranab Mukherjee, former President, called for, last December, while delivering the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture. 

The current delimitation exercise is presentlylimited to redrawing of existing constituency boundaries—Lok Sabha and State Legislature. Necessitated by the need to redistribute the electorates evenly, territories will now change hands. Political & power equations, too, will change. The image is brutal—but the idea is justice: proportional representation. 

In the fiefdom of political landlords, colossal electorate is bad news. In the life of political parties, more is however good. Some districts in Nagaland will now lose some Assembly seats.

Why was delimitation deferred in some select areas—when a nation-wide exercise was completed between July 2002 to May 2008? Why is there a new urgency, when preparations for 2021 Census is already underway? Or, when a solution is at the threshold?

The February 2020 notified zones are no ordinary places. They are the most heavily militarized areas in India. Fearing social repercussions and security situations, the government had earlier excluded these regions. The sudden announcement quotes an improvement in law & order—and reduction in insurgency incidents. Yet, on 30th June, 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs reextended Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, in Nagaland, for another six months—a martial law engaged only when threat is at its highest risk. 

Fear as politics indeed has multiple perceptions!Timing is a normal suspect—for any ruling government—for the earlier excuse of not holding delimitation is clearly not a security issue. It never was. 

Fifteen years ago, the Lotus was nowhere visible in these parts of the country. Today, it is blooming everywhere! What better times—if not now? 

In August 2019, an Act of Parliament morphed the State of J&K into a Union Territory—abrogating Article 370 and subtracting Ladakh region. Anything ‘special’ was shredded—now administered by a Lieutenant-Governor. Recall March 2015—BJP’s first-ever government in J&K, formed with PDP partners. The alliance collapsed in June 2018—which was followed by President’s Rule and dissolution of Assembly in November. The current delimitation aspires to increase the political clout of majority-Hindu Jammu region—long held by Muslim-dominated Kashmir. Surely, BJP as a party, stands to profit.

Likewise, BJP’s ascendency in Assam in May 2016 is sheer blitzkrieg. It not only formed the government for the first time—but convincingly won with absolute majority. In Manipur, a BJP Chief Minister now heads a coalition government—since February 2017 assembly elections. Arunachal Pradesh—on a cold evening in December 2016, the government was repainted saffron soon after Pema Khandu dramatically switched parties to BJP to become Chief Minister. 

Kekhrie Yhome

(Kekhrie Yhome is a professor, politician, and philosopher. Views ventilated here do not mirror the outlook of any political party).

(To be Concluded)

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