As compared to plain areas, the population density in the hilly areas of Uttarakhand is less due to which they have few seats in Assembly elections to represent a very big and less developed area.
There has been a continuous verbal fight over the delimitation issue in respect to the representation of the hills. In 2006, delimitation exercise redrew the electoral map of Uttarakhand for 2012 elections which became a controversial issue. The hilly districts such as Almora, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Champawat, Garhwal, Pithoragarh, Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal and Uttarkashi lost six constituencies about 40 to 34 seats to the plain districts namely Dehradun, Haridwar, Nainital and Udhamsingh Nagar which altogether increased from 30 to 36 seats.
The loss suffered by these districts would have been significant if the Delimitation Commission had not enacted the law 282/UTA/2006 which closely monitored the difference between the population in the hilly areas and the plain districts. It fixed the average population per constituency for the hills at the lower level than that of the plain areas which was 109148 VS 133404 about 18% adjustment. Thus, boosting the number of seats in the hills by 3, while subtracting one each from Dehradun, Haridwar and Udhamsingh Nagar districts.
The issue of delimitation gained huge attention as it reduced the number of seats in the hills and created more seats in the densely populated plain areas such as Haridwar, Dehradun and Udham Singh Nagar. Dewakar Bhatt, leader of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (Democratic Party), in a separate “Maha Sammelan” said that it was a conspiracy to “cheat” the hill masses. The main concept was to have a smaller area for development. However, if the number of representatives was reduced in the hilly areas then there would be crawling development. Which in turn would result in the lesser representation of hilly districts in the Assembly and generate lesser funds.
The hilly districts cover 92.7% of the state’s total geographical area of 51,125 km square. While the plain area comprises only 7.43% of the total land area which is almost half of the state’s population, i.e. approximately 8.49 million. On the contrary, more development work is done in plain areas than hilly areas. The hills have been neglected which has hampered the growth pattern and created a regional imbalance. By adopting such policy injustice is being done with the under-developed hilly areas, giving rise to many socio-economic issues which have affected the stability of the border state of the country.
The issue of delimitation has hindered the development of the state as hill constituencies are spread over rigid terrains which cover a large area. There are lesser representatives in the hilly areas. Suppose if an MLA is managing five tehsils and if the number of Assembly seats is decreased to one then there will be only one MLA who will represent a very large area which will hinder development.
Harish Rawat Chief Minister of Uttarakhand had requested more representatives for the hilly areas and asked for bringing suitable legislative reforms for the hilly districts. He said, “The delimitation act itself provides that there can be 10% variation between constituencies. If this variation percentage is raised to 20 or 25% then it will benefit the hilly areas.” According to him, the need of populous districts of the state can only be met by increasing the number of seats in the hilly regions. He also stated that he would like Lok Sabha constituencies to be delimited in such a way that they include plain and hilly areas which can abolish hill-plains divide.
The issue of delimitation has lead to slow development of the hilly areas which in turn has forced the people to migrate to plain areas in search of jobs. Due to adverse climatic condition and geographical factors, the development of the public sector, as well as tel communications, is very poor. In order to eradicate regional imbalance more, representatives must be allocated in the hilly districts for strong political representation.