The politics over the proposed delimitation of assembly segments in Assam faced resistance on Monday, with the opposition parties questioning the timing of the centre's decision. This comes at a time when the BJP's strategist for the north-east and Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the process will ensure political rights of indigenous people in the state.
"This delimitation will ensure the political rights of the indigenous communities of Assam. People of Assam would like to see that their interest against migrants is secured. We want to see that the indigenous people don't lose any seats. Assam should be governed by indigenous people," Mr Sarma said.
The BJP is upbeat after the centre issued this notification for delimitation Assam, besides Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. This exercise has been pending in Assam since 2007. It was postponed till the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was updated.
"We are against 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.
The NRC update is not complete yet and the fate of 19 lakh people hangs in balance, the opposition leaders have said. "Either they would be Indian or foreigner, so before ascertaining their citizenship how can we delimit? Since one of the main reasons for delimitation is to stabilise population in each of the constituency without increasing the number of constituency, if we keep these people out now and if they turn out to be genuine Indians, where will we put them? This government just wants to keep people on the tenterhook," said Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia.
A committee appointed by centre to suggest recommendations to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, in a report, had recommended safeguards for indigenous people. Many are now upset with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA.
Sources have told NDTV that recommendations that are yet to be made public, there is a suggestion of reservation of seats for indigenous people, but the committee could decide on the number of seats, something that the BJP would like to vouch for and delimitation might help reduce the political space of many Bengali Muslims, who have been accused of being foreiners.
There are 126 legislative and 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam. Muslims make 37 per cent of total voters in Assam, a lion's share is Bengali-speaking Muslims. Of the 126 constituencies, there are 28 Muslim MLAs, while BJP has only one among them. The rest are with the Congress (14) and AIUDF (13).
The BJP has given a call of "mission 100" - to win at least 100 seats in next year's election. Now it has 62 MLAs and certainly needs a larger voter base.
"Will it be another Hindu-Muslim matter? Will it be done in a way that Muslim seats will go down? Then it will reveal their unholy intention. They are not doing this as a democratic exercise. This is part of their politics and they want to make this an issue for future," said AIDUF MLA Aminul Islam.