November 24, 2020
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A New Divide

In several of the 125 redrawn constituencies, one half of a village/district/town falls into one constituency and the other half into another, leaving the voter confused about which candidate he should vote for, and from which constituency

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A New Divide
The Election Commission's attempt to give a better representation to the marginalised communities through redrawing of boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies has a downside. Several of the 125 redrawn constituencies have created a geographical divide where one half of a village/district/town falls into one constituency and the other half into another. This has left the voter confused about which candidate he should vote for, and from which constituency. There are 40 such constituencies across several states.

Sample Chitrakoot: It falls into both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. One portion is in Banda constituency from where Bhairon Prasad Mishra of Bahujan Samaj Party contested. The other part falls into Satna from where Ganesh Singh of Bharatiya Janta Party was pitted against Congress candidate Bir Singh Tomar. The average voter here was not clear as to who he should vote for. He has voter ID cards of both constituencies. The EC has tried to clear the air but confusion remains.

Says former District Magistrate of Chitrakoot district, Jaganath Singh: "The major issue with voters in this areas is that the voters list is revised many times while the voter ID cards have been made years ago. Therefore the serial number is different in the ID card and it never matches with the revised voter’s list. Therefore 20 to 25 per cent people never get to vote during the general elections. And that needs to be paid attention ".

There are other concerns too. For example:

  • A constituency is deprived of development since it falls into the jurisdiction of two states.
  • Some voters find that half of their family is scheduled caste in one state while the other half is scheduled tribe in another.
  • On election days there is an accessibility problem because of the district/state borders. The villagers say they find it difficult to deal with the insensitive para-military forces that never allow them to cross the border to exercise their voting rights.
  • States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu,Goa, Kerala and Maharasthra have several districts where the electoral rolls are spread across two states.

In Karnataka, as many as 16 districts share their boundaries with Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa.

Election Commissioner SY Quershi recognises the problem. Says he: "There are certain houses on the border of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, where the drawing room falls in the state of Tamil Nadu and the backyard or kitchen falls in Puducherry. Bifurcation of certain villages and towns in two states is the result of reorganization of the states through the act of Parliament. "

However he defends the delimitation process: "The Delimitation Commission while delimiting Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies takes care to ensure that parts of villages and towns falling in one state are included in the Parliamentary or Assembly Constituencies of the state concerned, though it may result in such divided villages or districts forming part of different constituencies in different states. It is a matter that requires attention but is not worrisome".

The authorities of course claim that there are regular checks and there were no problems during elections. Chief Electoral officer of Karnataka M N Vidyashankar says, "The villages falling into the purview of two states in various districts are very closely monitored and we ensure that the name of voters figuring in a list in one state is not repeated in the other state. There are regular meetings with the returning officer to keep a close watch".

But it's not that simple. If the experience of innumerable people who, despite having a voter ID, find their names missing from the electoral roll is anything to go by, one can be sure it must be more difficult to fine tune the system across borders that divide villages and towns.

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