No more games over delimitation

No more games over delimitation

No delaying BBMP polls, HC reads the riot act to govt

File photo for representation

An attempt by the Karnataka government to postpone elections to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), due in September, by delaying the delimitation of wards, may have been thwarted by the High Court, which has warned the government that it would impose an exemplary cost on the state if the process is not completed in time. The State Election Commission (SEC), which was unable to start even preliminary work on the elections, as the delimitation issue has been hanging fire for long, had filed a Public Interest Litigation  seeking a direction to the government to perform its statutory duties under the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, and notify the delimitation of all 198 wards and caste-wise reservation. The fact that the SEC had to move the court to prod the state government to act is only an indication of how rotten the state of affairs is. Delimitation is a process in which the boundaries are redrawn to ensure that all wards have a more or less uniform population, the average being about 42,000 people per constituency.

While BBMP has been claiming for about a year now that the draft delimitation notification is ready, the final order is yet to be issued. Though delimitation is meant to be a scientific exercise aimed at improving administrative efficiency, in reality, the party in power in the state interferes in the process to ensure that the wards are redrawn in such a way that their candidates have the maximum advantage during elections. For instance, if there is a strong opposition candidate from the general category in a particular constituency, he is prevented from entering the fray by reserving that seat for SC/ST, or vice versa. Thus, delimitation is reduced to a farce in which elections are manipulated even before they are held. As the current delimitation exercise was finalised by the previous JD(S)-Congress regime, the present BJP government, for obvious reasons, is averse to implementing it and would like to undertake the entire process afresh.

In order to maintain the sanctity of elections, it is imperative that the process of delimitation be freed from the clutches of politicians and handed over to an independent commission. The exercise should be completed at least one year before the elections so that the government does not use the delay as a ruse, especially when the situation is not conducive to the ruling party, to postpone polls. This will also give sufficient time to affected parties to seek legal redress in case the wards are redrawn arbitrarily. The High Court has acted wisely in cracking the whip and thereby thwarting attempts by the government to scuttle democracy at the grassroots level.