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AASU conference and electoral rolls

The publication of integrated draft electoral rolls, 2021 of Assam coincided with the inaugural day of the four-day-long 17th general conference of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).

AASU

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  19 Nov 2020 5:06 AM GMT

The publication of integrated draft electoral rolls, 2021 of Assam coincided with the inaugural day of the four-day-long 17th general conference of the All Assam Students' Union (AASU). The coincidence is a stark reminder for the student body that the demand for correct electoral rolls, free from names of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, which provided the spark to the Assam Movement is far from being fulfilled. The spark has faded in power politics. In 1978, the AASU raised the demand for an intensive revision of electoral rolls in the entire state alleging that the rolls being revised for conducting by-election to Mangaldai Lok Sabha constituency in the state following the demise of Hiralal Patowary, the member of parliament from the constituency belonging to Janata Party, contained names of "lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants." The AASU demanded intensive revision be carried out to detect illegal Bangladeshis in the state, delete their names from electoral rolls and deported them to Bangladesh. Even after more than four decades since then, the electoral rolls continue to include the names of foreigners and successive governments in the state continue to be voted by electors included in the rolls. Members of Parliament also continue to be elected on the basis of these rolls. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) formed by the AASU and the erstwhile All Asam Gana Sangram Parishad after singing of the Assam Accord in 1985 headed governments at Dispur twice after being elected on the basis of electoral rolls containing names of illegal Bangladeshi migrants.

The new regional party Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) formed at the behest of the AASU and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad will also be contesting the 2021 Assembly polls to be conducted on the basis of 'incorrect' electoral rolls. The process of publishing the final list of the updated National Register of Citizens in Assam has been put in the back burner. The Registrar General of India is yet to notify the final list prepared in a Supreme Court mandated exercise that cost over Rs 1600 crore to the exchequer. The State Government alleges that the updated NRC contains names of illegal Bangladeshi migrants and is seeking 20 per cent sample reverification of NRC data in districts bordering Bangladesh and 10 per cent in rest districts. The Supreme Court earlier rejected the state government's plea for reverification. The Assam Public Works, the main petitioner in the case has sought 100 per cent reverification. The AASU expressed unhappiness over "incomplete" NRC and filed a petition in the apex court seeking re-examination of the final list. The student body has accused both the Central and the State governments for the delay in publication of the final NRC list. The Manual on Electoral Rolls of the Election Commission of India states that there is no standard and uniform document throughout the country to determine the citizenship, the NRC, wherever it exists, could be one of the documents referred to by the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) while enquiring question of citizenship of the person concerned. Assam is the only country to have NRC but the status of the final list of the updated register is in limbo due to which it cannot be referred to by the EROs for determination of citizenship for the purpose of rolls revision.

The draft integrated rolls published have names of 2,24,39,522 electors including 1,14,25,748 men and 1,10,13,774 women. The number of electors has increased by 76,020 over the total electors in final rolls published on February 14. The final electoral rolls will be published on January 15, 2021 after disposal of the claims and objections. This being a Special Summary Revision, the Election Commission may order house-to-house verification in all the constituencies or in some specified constituencies. However, achieving the correction of the electoral rolls is apparently not in the list of priorities of any political party or organizations, including the AASU even though the demand for making Assam free-from illegal Bangladeshi migrants will be raised with a higher pitch in 2021 too. The AASU's stakes in this election has gone up after formation of the AJP and the Duliajan conference of the student body is expected to give a special momentum to the process. The draft rolls published therefore, will draw special attention of the student body to age-cohort wise elector information. The draft rolls have 1,17,051 new voters in the age group of 18 to 19 years while 60,64,678 electors in the age-group of 20 to 29 years are the largest block of electors in the state. Support of this largest block over 61 lakh young voters below 30 years will be the game changer in 2021 Assembly polls. It remains to be seen whether these young electors will weigh the issue of correct rolls with the issue of development to decide their mandate.

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