The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) expressed serious concerns over the draft delimitation for the upcoming elections in Assam. The reliance on outdated census data from 2001 in the delimitation process, without accounting for population growth and demographic changes since then, has attracted vehement opposition from the people of Assam.
AAP’s Incharge of North Eastern States, Shri Rajesh Sharma, highlighted the Election Commission’s failure to adhere to its own guidelines has resulted in the potential adverse impact on the administrative and governance systems and the violation of rights to fair representation for many ethnic and caste groups in Assam. AAP questioned the timing and necessity of the delimitation, raising doubts about the potential political interference of the ruling party i.e Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). AAP urged the government and Election Commission to listen to the voices of the protesting masses and conduct the delimitation along with the nationwide delimitation scheduled for 2026. At the very least, AAP has called upon the Election Commission to conduct a fair hearing, address the shortcomings, and rectify the draft to ensure fair representation and address the unique challenges faced by diverse regions and groups in Assam.
While, AAP Chief Spokesperson Ms Priyanka Kakkar said, “The party emphasises that the draft shows a complete disregard for the rights of the burgeoning population and the crucial geographical aspects of the state.” By disregarding the geographical and demographic considerations, the draft delimitation has neglected the unique challenges faced by certain regions of Assam and exhibited a severe lack of foresight
Shri Rajesh Sharma highlighted the glaring inconsistencies and numerous flaws in the demarcation of Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha constituencies in the draft delimitation of Assam, which was published by the Election Commission on June 20, 2023. He remarked, “The way the demarcation has been done in the draft is woefully inconsistent and riddled with mistakes. It fails to consider the growing population of Assam and its geographical location. The draft fails to consider the growing population of Assam and completely neglects the rights and concerns of various castes, communities, and ethnic groups, and other significant factors crucial to the demarcation process.”
Drawing attention to historical context, Shri Rajesh Sharma pointed out the discrepancies in the use of census data for the delimitation process and its implications for electoral representation in Assam. He explained that the first delimitation in Assam was conducted in 1976, based on the 1971 census when the state’s population was approximately 14.6 million. However, the current delimitation relies on the 2001 census, despite the fact that the population has since surged to an estimated 36 million in 2023. This substantial 2.5 times population growth in Assam since the last delimitation in 1976 calls for a proportional increase in assembly seats, yet it is puzzling that despite that, the number of assembly seats allocated to Assam remains stagnant at 126 in this recent draft as well, along with a mere 14 Lok Sabha seats.”
Shri Rajesh Sharma added, “Since 2001, there have been two more censuses in 2001 and 2011, and the 2021 census was postponed for some reason. However, the Election Commission’s decision to base the current delimitation on the 2001 census seems misplaced and out of touch with the present reality. This arbitrary fixation of dates, solely for the purpose of altering the boundaries of Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha constituencies without considering the fundamental objectives of delimitation, appears misguided and is deeply concerning for the people of Assam.”
Shri Rajesh Sharma further emphasized that the delimitation process should be based on the principles of accounting for demographic and geographical considerations of constituencies to ensure fair and accurate representation in any state’s electoral system. “However, in the case of Assam, neither the increasing population nor the geographical factors have been taken into account,” he said.
Highlighting the contrasting approach taken in other states, Shri Rajesh Sharma remarked, “We have observed that when delimitation was conducted in Jammu and Kashmir, it was based on the 2011 census. It is standard practice to delineate the boundaries of the Legislative Assembly or Lok Sabha seats in any state based on the latest available census data. Hence, there is no justification for relying on outdated census figures from 2001 in Assam for delimitation.”
Referring to the Election Commission’s statement on September 27, 2022, regarding the delimitation exercise in Assam, Shri Rajesh Sharma questioned the commission’s failure to adhere to its own guidelines. He highlighted that when the Election Commission had announced the delimitation in Assam, the EC had said, ‘The Commission will design and finalise its guidance and methodology for the purpose of delimiting the constituencies. During the delimitation exercise, the commission will keep in mind the physical features, existing boundaries and administrative units, facility of communication, public convenience, and as far as practicable, the constituencies will be kept geographically compact.’
He stressed, “However, we have noticed several instances where, despite the Commission’s assurances, it has disregarded its own guidelines, leading to the division of the same village or panchayat into multiple Vidhan Sabhas. In certain areas, villages or panchayats have been forcibly placed under a different assembly situated 150 kilometres away. These actions by the Election Commission have raised serious concerns about the impact on the administrative system as well as representation.”
He said, “Under the proposed changes, several constituencies in Assam have been merged or abolished, raising serious questions about the effectiveness of the administrative system. The Amguri seat in Sivasagar district has been abolished and merged with Nazira and Sivasagar, which is expected to have adverse consequences. Additionally, One such instance occurred in Sivasagar district, where the Amguri constituency was abolished and merged with Nazira and Sivasagar, potentially disrupting the administrative system. There are many similar cases like Barpeta, Bajali, etc.”
AAP’s in-charge of North-Eastern States, Shri Rajesh Sharma also expressed serious concerns over the recent changes in the Barak Valley’s Vidhan Sabha configuration. “Previously, there were 15 Vidhan Sabha seats in the region, but instead of an attempt to bolster population representation, the seats for the region have been reduced to only 13 in the draft. This move is viewed as a violation of the rights of the local population and is expected to pose significant challenges in the near future.”
These changes will create significant challenges for the people in the affected areas. He said, “The practical operational difficulties will be evident when attempting to manage a village panchayat situated 100-150 kilometres away. The logistics of running satellite assemblies in the area are anticipated to present a major problem.”
Shri Rajesh Sharma questioned the timing and necessity of conducting delimitation in Assam when a nationwide delimitation is scheduled for 2026. He asked whether this was a deliberate attempt by the ruling BJP to secure advantages. He asked, “Why are we in such a rush that the delimitation of Assam should be done now, particularly when it could simply have coincided with the national delimitation?” The 42nd amendment to the Indian Constitution stayed the delimitation exercise for 25 years until 2001, which was extended by another 25 years till 2026.
Furthermore, Shri Rajesh Sharma, criticised the discriminatory nature of the published delimitation draft. He voiced concern about the exclusion of rights of various castes and ethnic groups in Assam. He said, “Assam is a diverse state, vibrant with communities like the Ahom tribe, Team tribe, Bodos, Morans, Rabhas, Karbis, Misings, Deoris, and many more. It is essential to safeguard the rights of all residents to ensure fair representation for all these groups. The current delimitation draft fails to adequately protect their rights.”
The Aam Aadmi Party has been proactive in raising these concerns and has already communicated its reservations to the Election Commission. They had previously written to the Election Commission regarding these concerns. Furthermore, AAP has submitted a letter outlining the shortcomings to the Election Commission today as well. AAP leader Shri Rajesh Sharma affirmed that the party will continue to voice its objections and present the shortcomings of the delimitation draft in a public hearing to be organised by the Election Commission in Assam.
Shri Rajesh Sharma, said, “We expect the Election Commission to conduct the delimitation process in Assam in 2026 with the rest of the country. In the least, the EC must rectify the several deficiencies in its current draft and ensure the fair representation of all ethnic and caste groups by revisiting the delimitation process in 2026 or through immediate corrections. One significant issue is the new imbalance in seat distribution. Specifically, in Barak Valley, where the number of seats should be increased according to the population. Additionally, seats for the Ahom community in Upper Assam have decreased, particularly in the Sivasagar district. There are many such cases.”
“Protests have erupted across Assam in response to the delimitation draft, with demonstrations taking place in Barak Valley, Sivasagar, Amgudi, and Sorbhog, etc. We urge the government and the Election Commission to listen to the voices of the protesting masses and incorporate their concerns and perspectives into a revised and people-centric draft,” he said.
Shri Rajesh Sharma expressed scepticism regarding the draft, suggesting that it seems Assam Chief Minister Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma and his cabinet members have undue influence over its contents. “It appears that the ruling party may have interfered in the process. Therefore, we have submitted a representation to the Election Commission, seeking a fair hearing.” He concluded by emphasising the need for the press conference held in Delhi to disseminate correct information about the delimitation plans in Assam as the same has not yet reached the general public and the national media.