DELIMITATION MUST BE DONE DEMOCRATICALLY: ORISSA

OrissaMatters Bureau

New Delhi:

The all-party Orissa committee has questioned the logic of abolishing 20 assembly constituencies and creating an equal number of new ones during its discussion with the Delimitation Commissioner, Justice Kuldeep Singh, on July 13 here and raised objections over the process and methodology followed for reorganising constituencies for State as well as Union legislatures.

Speaking to OrissaMatters .com, Mr. Nalinikanta Mohanty, prominent member of Congress Legislative wing in Orissa Assembly, said that the Committee had aired its grievances over the �undemocratic procedure� followed for delimitation. �Associate members have not been consulted by the Commission in preparing the working paper,� even as �Serious problems exist in entitlements of Assembly seats of districts and also in distribution of seats for SC/ST in respective districts. Seats with less percentage of SC/ST population have been denoted as reserved while those with high percentage have been proposed to be unreserved�, he noted.

Under Article 81 (1) (a) and (b) the Constitution, the maximum size of Lok Sabha has been fixed on 550 excluding two nominated members. It has been decided to limit this size to 543 until year 2026. Similarly the sizes of State legislatures have also been frozen. The Delimitation Commission�s mandate is to reorganise constituencies on the basis of demographic change, which has, over the years, substantially altered the size of many constituencies. Bhubaneswar, for instance, has about a population of six lakh voters against the average size of 2 lakh. Delimitation can make even such iniquitous distribution.

The representatives from Orissa are not opposed to the idea of delimitation per se. �What we are protesting is the arbitrary method of determining which constituency is to be cut down or abolished,� says Mr. Raghunath Mohanty, BJD MLA. As evidence of this, he cites �large discrepancy� between Census Report of 2001 and the data provided by the Commission as basis for delimitation. �How can the structure of constituencies be altered on the basis of fictitious population figures,� he asks.

Moreover, there are allegations of �politically motivated selective downsizing� of constituencies although the process is being carried out by a Commission and not by any government.

The process of abolition and creation is causing damage to emotional ties of the electorate, feels Mr. Nalinikanta Mohanty. People identify themselves with some particular constituency and its leaders. �Their sense of identity and belongingness are being lost in the process of abolition and creation of constituencies, which is entirely unnecessary and avoidable.�

While the process of delimitation seems both a necessity and an eventual must, many are demanding that it must be done democratically. For example, through conducting public hearings whereby voters can express their choice regarding joining some constituency. The Commission deciding it unilaterally is like taking away a democratic right.

The all-party committee comprising of MPs Giridhar Gamango (Congress), Prasanna Acharya and Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD), Juel Oram (BJP), and MLAs Nalinikanta Mohanty (Congress) Raghunath Mohanty, Sanatan Bisi and Kalpataru Das (BJD) and Ms. Sanchita Mohanty (BJP) met the Commission to discuss these issues. Hearing their objections, the Commission has urged them to meet again with suggestions on September 19.

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