Guwahati: In what has triggered a fresh controversy, the ruling BJP led alliance government has described the proposed delimitation of assembly and parliament constituencies in Assam as an attempt to protect the political rights of native Assamese by creating more seats in which a majority of voters would be from indigenous groups.
The Opposition Congress has registered their strong opposition to the timing of the delimitation process while accusing the ruling BJP of doing it for political reasons. “We are opposing this. Why do we need this when we will have census in 2021? Now, the delimitation would be on the basis of the 2011 census and then up to 2016, the number of seats will increase as per the census. What’s the point of doing this now?” former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.
Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, however, clarified that the sole purpose of redrawing the boundaries of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the state is aimed at protecting the political rights of native Assamese.
Though, delimitation of constituency in Assam was overdue since 2001, the BJP led alliance government has been trying to use the process to allay the fears of indigenous Assamese that the Citizenship Amendment Act might turn them into a minority in their own homeland.
“Of the 126 assembly constituencies, at least 110 should be kept for the indigenous people. We do not want any increase in the number of constituencies... that won’t help us,” Sarma said.
Muslim voters in Assam account for about 37 per cent of the state’s electorate. In the 2016 elections, 28 Muslim candidates had won. Of them, 14 are from Congress, 13 from AIUDF and one from BJP.
Muslims voters also influence election results in six of the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies and BJP wants a complete overhaul of demography in these constituencies as well. These six constituencies are Barpeta, Dhubri, Nagaon, Kaliabor, Karimganj and Silchar.
“Many people think if seats are reserved, then it would provide the desired safeguards to natives. But if a seat is reserved without altering the boundary, then the demography of the voters will remain unchanged. If the voters in a reserved seat happen to be supporters of Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF chief) then the elected MLA will have to follow Ajmal’s orders and we are back to square one,” the minister said.
In Assam politics Badruddin Ajmal and his party All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) have often been symbolised and accused as to be the patron of immigrants from Bangladesh.