The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delimitation dice rolls for SCs

New Delhi, March 27: West Bengal may account for two of the 10 additional reserved seats the Scheduled Castes are expected to get in the Lok Sabha as a result of the ongoing delimitation exercise based on the 1991 Census. The SC reserved seats in the lower house, as per tentative calculations, will go up from the existing 79 to 89. The number is likely go up from 8 to 10 seats in West Bengal.

The Delimitation Commission has, however, not yet prepared its working papers on detailed proposals on delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats for West Bengal. With the Assembly elections later this year in view, the commission has started the exercise with poll-bound states like Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

There would obviously be a proportionate increase in the number of seats reserved for the SCs in the West Bengal Assembly. At present, 59 seats are reserved. According to tentative estimates, the number will go up to 69 as a result of the delimitation.

However, the number of Lok Sabha seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes in the state will remain the same — two. And, if tentative estimates hold good at the end of the finalisation of the delimitation of constituencies, the seats reserved for the STs in the Assembly may actually go down by one seat — from the existing 17 seats to 16 seats.

Giving these tentative details, sources said there could be significant changes in the boundaries of the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies as a result of the delimitation.

Earlier this month, the Delimitation Commission had sent detailed guidelines to the state election commissioners to help them prepare working papers on delimitation of the Assembly and Lok Sabha seats. As per the guidelines, the state election officers are required to ensure that delimitation of Assembly constituencies are confined to the boundaries of the districts and that none straddles two districts.

The guidelines also make it clear that most of the existing reserved seats — both in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha — may not stay reserved.

The apportionment of the reserved seats — based on the relative strength of the SC and ST population in the total population in the state — will be done as per the strength of their population in each constituency. The first 10 delimited Lok Sabha seats in terms of higher SC population will be reserved for the SCs. The same procedure will be followed to determine the ST seats.

For determining the reserved seats in the Assembly, in the first stage the number of seats reserved would be calculated on the basis of the relative strength of the SCs and STs in the state’s total population as per the 1991 Census. The number of reserved seats for each district would be allocated on the basis of the relative strength of the SC and ST population in each state. The same number of Assembly seats in the district with higher SC and ST population will then be reserved.

Significantly, however, the delimitation will also involve fresh allocation of Assembly seats among the districts. The urban districts will have a significantly higher representation in the Assembly at the cost of the rural districts, which will have reduced representation in the Assembly.

But the delimitation process has faced some uncertainty as some political parties and a large number of sitting legislators are exerting pressure for slowing down the exercise by proposing that the 2001 Census should be made the basis of delimitation.

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