Delimitation on the basis of population, why is Assam CM Hemant Biswa Sarma unhappy with it?

Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma caused a stir by saying that Election for the delimitation of constituencies for Population should not be the only criterion. Sarma strongly advocated that during delimitation criteria other than population should also be kept in mind. He further said that existing laws reward people who break laws and gain more representation in elected bodies, while on the other hand punish those who follow population control norms.

Sarma has for the past several years been engaged in his mission to please his masters in the BJP and its ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He not only left the Congress party but also its ideology. Ever since joining the BJP in 2015, he has been trying to prove his hardline Hindutva credentials.

Population is not the criterion for delimitation

Sarma’s claim that population should not be the sole criterion for delimitation is yet another attempt by him to ensure that Assam’s Muslim community is not rewarded with greater representation in elected bodies, particularly the state assembly and parliament .

The Election Commission, through its December 27 announcement, had set a deadline of January 1, 2023, that no new administrative units would be created until the new delimitation exercise was over.

The Election Commission has said it will redraw the boundaries of Assam’s existing 126 assembly and 14 Lok Sabha seats using the 2001 census data. The Sarma-led BJP government on December 31, ahead of the EC deadline, To balance the division, it was decided to merge the four districts with the other four districts.

In the cabinet meeting, it was decided to merge Biswanath district with Sonitpur, Hojai with Naugaon, Bajali with Barpeta and Tamulpur with Baksa.

Why is this so important?

This is the first delimitation exercise in Assam since 1976. The total population of Assam was recorded as 31,205,576 in the 2011 census. It was 14,625,152 in the 1971 census. It is estimated that out of its estimated population, the Muslim population has increased to 40 percent. While it was 12.4 percent in 1901 and 34.22 percent in 2011.

For example, the Muslim population in Kamrup district increased from 20.5 percent in 1971 to 39.66 percent in 2011. The reason for such population growth among Muslim population in Assam is early marriage and high fertility rate. Also, large scale illegal immigration from Bangladesh and Myanmar is also responsible for this.

Illegal migration is the main issue of the state

Pro. The Assam Population Stabilization Committee (CPSIM) on Muslims, headed by Ilyas Ali, in its May 2022 report said that due to early marriages, the fertility rate among women below 18 years is higher than that of women above 18 years. was very high and Muslim women were not ready to adopt methods of family planning and contraception.

The CPSIM survey report said, “This indicates that family planning is taboo for local Muslims. Spacing at birth is one of the best natural methods of family planning. Unfortunately, about 70.42 per cent (Muslim) women do not follow the norm of minimum three-year birth interval.”

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a major issue in the state since 1971. They were allegedly encouraged by the Congress governments to use them as their assured vote bank.

Topic for serious debate: Sarma

Sarma said on Sunday, “It is a matter of serious debate. Population should not be the only criterion for delimitation and other factors should also be considered. But in the upcoming delimitation, we will have to work according to the existing law, which states that constituencies will be delimited on the basis of population.” He further said, though Muslims should get their share, but Hindus should also get their share of justice in delimitation.

The Election Commission conducts regular delimitation from time to time to balance the number of voters in each constituency. A similar exercise in Delhi balanced the electorate evenly distributed across all seven Lok Sabha constituencies of Delhi.

Sarma is not alone in raising questions

Sarma is not the only one who has questioned population being the sole criterion for delimitation. The Madras High Court raised a similar question in August 2021 and asked why states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were penalized by reducing their representation in the Lok Sabha for better implementation of population control norms.

A bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi said on August 17, 2021, “Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh lost 2 Lok Sabha seats after effectively controlling the population. Why should states that have not been able to successfully implement population control benefits get more representation? Why shouldn’t these states be compensated with equal number of Rajya Sabha seats?” The bench had said these things while dismissing an appeal related to non-reservation of Tenkasi Lok Sabha seat. The Tenkasi Lok Sabha seat was earlier reserved for the Scheduled Caste community.

mathematical juggling

In 1967, the issue of shortage of Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu was raised. Tamil Nadu was said to have been penalized for effectively implementing the federal government’s birth control scheme, and the astonishing mathematical juggling act was to award Rs 5,600 crore as possible monetary compensation to the state.

The Madras High Court had then said, “The state has successfully reduced the population by implementing a national program for family planning, while reducing its political representation in Parliament from 41 to 39, which is highly unfair. A State Government should be honored and congratulated for successfully implementing the policies and projects of the Central Government and the interests of such State cannot be adversely affected.”

Himanta Biswa Sarma is now raising the issue of reward versus punishment, which is sure to have more impact as a fresh delimitation exercise is expected across the country after the deadline to increase the number of seats in the Lok Sabha expires in 2026. The new Parliament House, which will host the upcoming budget session, will have the capacity to accommodate 888 members as against the current capacity of 543 in the Lok Sabha.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author. The views and facts given in this article do not represent the stand of Tv9.)

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