How did the politics of delimitation destroy the power of Dalits and Muslims?

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A draft by the Election Commission to redefine the limits of assembly seats in Assam has created a political ruckus. In India, there has been politics on delimitation since independence. The reason has been the power of the commission and its wavering attitude.

The last delimitation for Lok Sabha seats in India took place in 2008-09. At that time, out of total 543 Lok Sabha seats, the boundaries of 499 seats were fixed. Due to the controversy, the delimitation of the Lok Sabha seats of the northeastern states including Assam was not done.

Due to delimitation, the equation of seats is decided and with the help of this equation, political parties fit their calculations. Due to delimitation veteran leaders like Somnath Chatterjee, Shivraj Patil had to lose their traditional seats.

Before Assam, there was opposition to the delimitation done by the commission in Jammu and Kashmir and the commission was accused of working with the central authority. However, the Election Commission has been rejecting these allegations from time to time.

Amidst the claims of the Election Commission that everything is being done correctly, we have tried to understand the politics of delimitation through statistics. Let’s read it in detail…

What is delimitation, why there is ruckus in Assam?
The process of redrawing the boundaries of Lok Sabha and Vidhansabha seats is called delimitation. The Election Commission starts this process by the order of the President. The Election Commission forms a commission for delimitation, whose command is given to a retired Supreme Court Justice.

Representatives of all political parties are also included in the committee. According to Supreme Court lawyer Dhruv Gupta, Article 82 of the Constitution states that every 10 years, when the population data comes, the allocation of seats can be considered.

The Delimitation Act 2002 has rules and regulations related to delimitation. After the delimitation, the commission places that report before the Vidhansabha and the Lok Sabha.

In the draft of delimitation issued in Assam, the commission is being accused of neglecting the Muslims. The Muslim community says that if this draft is implemented, then the political status of the Muslims of the state will decrease.

The population of Muslims in Assam is more than 33 percent.

How did Dalits and Muslims become weak in delimitation politics?

Muslim majority seats reserved in SC category
There are many such seats in the Lok Sabha and Vidhansabha, where the number of Muslims is more. Despite this, those seats were reserved for the SC category.

Bihar’s Gopalganj, Telangana’s Karimganj, UP’s Nagina and Bulandshahr, Gujarat’s Kutch and Ahmedabad West seats are examples of this. All these 6 seats were reserved for Dalits in 2009.

According to the report of Census, the population of Muslims in Gopalganj is more than 17 percent, while Dalits here are only around 12 percent. Similarly, Karimganj has 56 percent Muslims and 12 percent Dalits, while this seat has been reserved for Dalits.

In 2009, the existence of Nagina seat in Bijnor district came to the fore. Here 43.04% are Muslims, while the number of Dalits is only 21%. This seat was also reserved in the delimitation of the Commission.

In Bulandshahr, the population of Muslims is 2 percent more than Dalit voters and this seat is also reserved for Dalit candidates. The condition of Gujarat’s Kutch and Ahmedabad West seats is also like that of Nagina and Bulandshahr. These Muslim majority seats are reserved for Dalits.

According to Asad Malik, Professor of Law Department at Jamia Millia Islamia University, due to delimitation, Muslims are not able to become MPs/MLAs even in Muslim majority seats. When MP-MLAs are unable to become, then their political stake also decreases.

Political experts say that reserving Muslim-dominated seats in the Dalit category is a kind of cleverness, due to which a large number of Muslims could not reach the Parliament or the Legislative Assembly.

Seat reserved for Dalits on dominance of upper caste-OBC castes
There are many such seats in the country, including Hajipur and Samastipur in Bihar, Tikamgarh and Bhind in Madhya Pradesh, where OBCs and upper castes dominate, but seats are reserved for Dalits.

Talking about Hajipur, this seat is Bhumihar and Yadav dominated. Similarly, Kushwaha and Yadavs have dominance in Samastipur. In Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind, the population of Thakurs and Brahmins is double that of Dalits.

On the contrary, the seats where the population of Dalits is more, the seats there are in the unreserved category. It also has hot seats like Aurangabad in Bihar, Rae Bareli in UP.

Aurangabad district of Bihar has the largest number of Dalits after Gaya, but this seat is unreserved. Usually the leaders of the Rajput fraternity are elected as MPs from here. Rae Bareli of UP is considered the stronghold of the Congress family.

At present, Sonia Gandhi is the Lok Sabha MP from this seat. The population of Dalits here is 30 percent, but it was not reserved in the delimitation of the commission.

Political experts say that due to this theory of delimitation, there is a dearth of outspoken Dalit MPs in the country. Dalit MPs keep silence on big issues due to political equation.

This was also seen during the thrashing of Dalits in Una, the Rohita Vemula suicide case and the Atrocities Act. Most of the MPs were seen doing damage control in this matter.

Interestingly, despite the majority of Dalits on general seats, Dalits do not become MPs from here. In 2014 and 2019, Dalits could not win even a single seat outside the reserve.

Muslims do not reserve seats for more than 50 percent
There are 9 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir where the population of Muslims is more than 50 percent. Despite this, these seats have not been reserved for Muslims.

Recently, the commission had recommended reserving 2 seats for Kashmiri Pandits in the delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, many Muslim organizations have been demanding reservation of seats for Muslims as well.

The Justice Rajendra Sachar Committee constituted by the Central Government in 2005 and later the report of the Ranganath Mishra Committee also recommended reservation of seats for Muslims. In this, it was said that like Dalit-Tribals, Muslim majority seats should also be reserved, so that the share can increase rapidly.

The Sachar Committee had also instructed to reserve Muslim majority seats in the SC category in the delimitation. However, even after 18 years of the Sachar Committee report, there was no change in the situation.

Asad Malik says, ‘The talk of giving reservation to Muslims was raised even during the making of the constitution, but it was postponed.’

Why question the commission, 2 reasons…

1. Delimitation cannot be challenged in the court- Supreme Court lawyer Dhruv Gupta says, delimitation cannot be challenged in any court. According to him, it is clearly written in Section 10(2) of the Delimitation Act that the decision of the commission will be binding.

According to a former Election Commission official, the Delimitation Commission submits a report on two aspects after a detailed study. Firstly, how many seats will there be in the Lok Sabha or Vidhansabha and secondly, what will be the structure of these seats?

After deciding this a draft is published. After this, the commission listens to the questions raised by the representatives and common citizens and then diagnoses them.

2. No fixed rule for Dalit reserved seat- Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi says – If the same policy of tribal seat reserve is followed in the seat reserve of Dalits, then there will not be much controversy.

According to Qureshi, seats are reserved on the basis of the number of tribals, while seats for Dalits are decided on the basis of rotation.

Qureshi further says- It has always been a complaint that where the Muslim population is more, the population there is shifted during delimitation. Because of this it becomes difficult to elect those Muslims. This cleverness is dangerous for democracy.

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