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Delimitation Fallouts

Context

Four years from now, when the delimitation of the constituencies will take place, India’s electoral democracy will stand on an existential crossroads.

Relevance

GS-II: Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure, Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein

Dimensions of the Article

  • Historical Background of North-South Tension
  • What would be the Impact of Delimitation
  • What can be done?
  • Way Forward

Historical Background of North-South Tension

  • There was a time, not all that long ago, when English speakers in the south of India routinely referred to our north as ‘Upper India’.
  • The Imperial Legislative Council, with its Central Legislative Assembly as the Lower House and the Council of State as the Upper House, being located in Delhi pushed that upperness further up.
  •  Later, the Constituent Assembly continued the ‘India’s north as India’s peak’ image.
  • Role of Congress: The Indian National Congress was from the very start, aware of the need for India’s regions to be seen as equal, bereft of any asymmetry.
  • Its very third session after Bombay (1885) and Calcutta (1886) was held in Madras (1887, and many times later).
  • The All India Kisan Sabha, the peasant wing of the Communist Party of India, likewise, which had first met in a ‘founder-conference’ in Lucknow in 1936, met at its fifth session in 1940 in Palasa, Srikakulam.
  • These considered arrangements embody the opening Article 1 of our Constitution: India, that is Bharat.

What would be the Impact of Delimitation

  • A delimitation of the constituencies that will elect Members of the Lok Sabha, following the population figures returned by the next decennial Census, is to take place in 2026.
  • Need to increase number of members: We cannot have, should not have, the same number of Members of Parliament — 543 — representing a vastly increased population in the Lok Sabha.
  • Mathematically speaking, the higher the number of people per constituency, the lower the impact each voter has on parliamentary representation — clearly an undesirable situation.
  • Reduced representation to States that stabilised their population: Re-arranging and standardising the number of people per constituency through the scheduled delimitation exercise will inevitably lead to a reduced representation for States that have managed to stabilise their populations, and to a higher representation for States that have not stabilised their populations.
  • Considering the Census data for 2011, almost half (48.6%) of our population (of approximately 1.38 billion) is contributed by the States of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Issues with population-based marking: A population-based marking out or re-arrangement of constituencies, as envisaged in Article 82 of the Constitution, will have the effect of giving more MPs to the States and Union Territories that have let their numbers grow, and will give markedly less MPs to those that have held their numbers in some check.
  • Realising the anomaly that a delimitation based on Census data would cause, a delimitation freeze was put in position by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi through the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution in 1976. 
  •  This was extended by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee through the 84th Amendment.
  • It is this extension that is to end in 2026, placing us at a crossroads.

What can be done?

  • There are two alternatives before us:
  • Another freeze: One, we go in for another freeze, this time not for any specific period but for until all States have achieved population stabilization.
  • Mathematically equitable formula: Two, we request demographic and statistical experts to devise a mathematical model along the lines of the ‘Cambridge Compromise’ based on a mathematically equitable “formula” for the apportionment of the seats of the European Parliament between the member-states.

Way Forward

The population-stabilizing States of India that is Bharat, which include all the southern States, must continue to enrich our legislative and parliamentary processes as they have been doing since the time of the Imperial Legislative Council, with no penalties having to be paid for their sense of responsibility. We need to limit population, not representation.

Source – The Hindu

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December 2022
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