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Koda waits for PM to douse delimit fire

Aug. 17: With tribal groups threatening to hit the streets and the opposition baying for his dismissal in the wake of the formal and final notification today by the Delimitation Commission, chief minister Madhu Koda today appealed for peace and calm.

He had faith in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, declared Koda, and is hopeful that the number of seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes from Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha and the Assembly would remain the same.

The Prime Minister, he recalled, had assured him that a committee headed by the law secretary was looking into the issue and was expected to submit a report by August 20.

“I would prefer to wait for the committee to submit a report; and I am sure the PM will convene an all-party meeting to resolve the deadlock,” he declared, advising tribal people to be patient. Similar sentiment was expressed by CPM state secretary J.S. Majumdar, who claimed that in a letter to Prakash Karat on August 7, the Prime Minister had assured he would address the issue.

“This is only a recommendation. It will go to the President and thereafter it will be placed before Parliament,” said Majumdar and JMM MP Hemlal Murmu.

BJP MLA Sarayu Roy, however, felt that the only remedy lay for the Parliament to amend the Bihar Reorganisation Act and ensure that the strength of the Jharkhand Assembly is raised from 81 to 120 or 150.

The final notification of the Delimitation Commission includes no change in its draft proposal that was finalised almost three years ago (see chart). The commission has stuck to its recommendation that ST reserved seats in the Assembly be reduced from the current level of 28 to 22.

The notification indicates that the commission was not swayed by the groundswell of public opinion and criticism, also opposition from the associate members.

The Delimitation Commission was forced to put off public hearings in the state earlier this year because of security reasons and apprehension of breach of peace. It was then forced to call for objections by carrying advertisements in newspapers.

The notification today acknowledges that the commission received a large number of suggestions and objections in response. But, clearly, they had little or no effect on the commission.

The Centre would be responsible for any violence in the state, warned former chief minister and leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Arjun Munda. Accusing the UPA government in the state of failing to safeguard interests of tribals, he demanded prompt action by the Centre.

The notification has come as an embarrassment for the chief minister, not only because he had personally called on the PM and the home minister a number of times but also because he had led an all-party delegation to the PM, objecting to the commission’s proposals. It also came at an awkward time with the Assembly’s monsoon session beginning today.

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