Delimitation still a distant dream, at least until 2026

The Centre on Wednesday virtually laid to rest the aspirations surrounding the 'delimitation of the Assembly constituencies' in the country.

Delimitation still a distant dream, at least until 2026

HYDERABAD: The Centre on Wednesday virtually laid to rest the aspirations surrounding the 'delimitation of the Assembly constituencies' in the country. Replying to a question by BJP member GVL Narasimha Rao in Rajya Sabha, it categorically stated that "the mammoth exercise shall have to wait until after the Census in 2026."

This effectively snuffed out even the faintest of hopes, if anyone had, especially within the context of the two Telugu states – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

In a detailed written reply to Narasimha Rao, Union Minister of State for Home Nityananda Rai asserted that the exercise required a constitutional amendment.

He said: "Section 26(1) of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 inter-alia states that, subject to the provisions contained in Article 170 of the Constitution and without prejudice to section 15 of this act, the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the successor States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana shall be increased from 175 and 119 to 225 and 153 respectively.

"As per article 170(3) of the Constitution, the total number of seats in the Assembly of each State shall not be readjusted till after the first Census is published post the year 2026. Therefore, unless and until Article 170 of the Constitution is amended in line with Section 26 of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, the number of seats cannot be increased," Rai stated.

The news would have been a huge dampener for some of the political parties of the Telugu states had the Centre's reticence been the first such occasion. Almost like a broken record, the Union government has been consistently and stoically ruling out the delimitation exercise any sooner than 2026.

In that context, the latest averments from Delhi would only be gulped down more with a sense of déjà vu than one with shock or disbelief.

Why all the fuss about delimitation in Telugu states?

Though it has been an oft-repeated refrain in the political rhetoric for quite some time, the issue of delimitation became a serious talking point in the Telugu states only in the last few years. More precisely after it was put under the spotlight by KCR in Telangana and Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh after they became chief ministers of their respective states post bifurcation. As widely believed, the two leaders had their own political compulsions to raise the bogey of delimitation for an increase in the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly.

In Andhra Pradesh, the TDP chief was all too keen to have the Assembly numbers expanded at the earliest especially after he had engineered the defection of 23 MLAs from then opposition YSRCP into his party. Delimitation was the only perfect resort he found to accommodate the defectors and thus pre-empt a backlash within the party.

KCR too echoed a similar sentiment by the end of his first term as Telangana Chief Minister. Unlike Chandrababu, the TRS supremo was more inclined for it in his plans to consolidate his party's base across the state. Even the reorganization of districts is also said to be an initiative taken up with similar political aspirations.

Centre's procrastination

Increasing the number of seats in legislative Assembly through delimitation is one of the quintessential assurances incorporated in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act to soothe the frayed nerves in both the states after the bifurcation.

Even the Centre appeared to be enthusiastic initially when it had undertaken the preparatory work which is a prerequisite for the larger delimitation exercise. All necessary data pertaining to the Assembly constituencies including the topographic and demographic detail was prepared. The Centre's proactive approach until this stage gave rise to the impression that it was fast moving towards giving the idea the shape of finality.

But the Centre dragging its feet subsequently citing the 2026 Census had effectively pushed the issue on to the backburner.

Also, the delimitation exercise throws up a few questions in hypothesis. As per existing guidelines, every Parliamentary constituency should consist of only seven Assembly constituencies. There is considerable amount of curiosity on what would be the number of Lok Sabha constituencies in the two states if their respective Assembly seats were to be increased as part of delimitation in 2026. And what bearing it is likely to have nationwide? Will it mean a proportionate increase in the total number of Lok Sabha seats which currently stand at 543?

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