ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Delimitation: A Tale of Missed Opportunities

The Delimitation Commission has not been partisan, but this major exercise has failed to meet expectations.

With the publication of its final report (Changing Face of Electoral India: Delimitation 2008) the Delimitation Commission of India can be said to have concluded its gigantic task of delimiting afresh all the parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the country, nearly six years after it was constituted in July 2002. Any exercise of (re)drawing of political boundaries deserves careful scrutiny, for it plays a crucial role in determining political outcomes in an electoral system like ours with its single-member districts and first-past-the-post system. But the present exercise, the fourth since the inauguration of electoral democracy, has a special significance for it is likely to hold for the next three decades.

The Commission, headed by Kuldip Singh, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, had completed its operational task by August 2007. Some months were then spent in deciding how to deal with five states where the exercise faced serious political opposition of the kind that could and should have been anticipated. In Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh the sensitivity was about the reduction in the political representation of the indigenous communities, and in the north-east there was the issue of “foreigners” in Assam and complaints about a rigged census in some parts of Manipur and Nagaland. In the meanwhile the government engaged in some regrettable and fortunately unsuccessful manoeuvres to forestall the implementation of the Commission’s orders for the entire country. Finally, a messy compromise was worked out: the Delimitation Act was amended to keep Jharkhand out of the purview of the exercise and gives the president the powers to stall delimitation in any other state in the interest of law and order, a power promptly used for the remaining four states.

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