Just a year to go, MPs hunt for new constituencies

June 15th, 2008 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
By Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi
New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) What is it that binds L.K. Advani, Somnath Chatterjee, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada and Lalu Prasad? Almost all of them are looking for new Lok Sabha constituencies after the redrawing of the country’s parliamentary map. The next general elections are less than a year away. But many veterans suddenly find themselves orphaned, the Lok Sabha constituencies that elected them to parliament in the last polls shaken up badly because of a massive delimitation exercise.

In the process, the number of Lok Sabha seats reserved for Scheduled Castes has increased from 79 to 85 and those of Scheduled Tribes from 41 to 48 due to the shuffling of assembly segments within each parliamentary constituency. This has altered the population ratio in each constituency, reducing the number of seats reserved for the “general” section. And many stalwarts in the Lok Sabha find themselves in this category.

Jitin Prasada, 34, a central minister of state for steel, finds that his family bastion Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh has been declared a reserved constituency. So he will not be contest from there again.

“It is for the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) to decide where I should contest from,” Prasada told IANS.

Another Congress MP, Sachin Pilot, who has nursed Dausa in Rajasthan ever since his father and former union minister Rajesh Pilot died in a road accident 10 years ago, is also in a similar predicament. He too wants Sonia Gandhi to rescue him.

Interestingly, Pilot may just be fortunate as Dausa is now reserved for Scheduled Tribes - and that is what Gujjars, to which community he belongs, now want to be called.

Advani, the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), needs to rethink his electoral future as well. His Gandhinagar constituency in Gujarat has been split up. Some assembly segments - Ellisbridge, Asarwa and Dariapur - have been taken out while two others - Sanand and Kalol - have been included.

But it is perfectly possible that Advani may stay on in Gandhinagar, BJP sources told IANS.

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is not that lucky. His Bolepur seat in West Bengal, from which the Marxist has been elected 10 times to the Lok Sabha, has fallen off the “general” category. Sources in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) say that he may not contest at all - because of persistent ill health. But if he decides to fight another electoral battle, he may switch over to Burdwan.

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s constituency Chapra in Bihar will acquire a new profile because its assembly segments have been assimilated to adjacent seats. His brother-in-law Anirudh Prasad alias Sadhu Yadav may also have to look for a fresh parliamentary seat because Gopalpur is now reserved for Dalits.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil is probably not that worried. Latur in Maharashtra, from where he has been elected in the past, is now reserved for Scheduled Castes. But Patil is already in the Rajya Sabha - and he may not return to Latur to fight.

Akbarpur in Uttar Pradesh, which in the past has elected Dalit icon and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, is now booked as the “general” category.

Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Etawah constituency is now reserved for Dalits, say Samajwadi Party sources.

One man is unfazed. That is Bollywood actor-turned-politician Dharmendra. Whatever may be the fate of his Bikaner constituency in Rajasthan, the BJP is in no mood to field him again. In their assessment, he has failed to perform.

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