Analysing Delimitation using the ten theses of state politics by Yadav and Palshikar.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government was defeated by just one vote in the confidence motion in 1999. On 21st August 2021, the madras high court took this incident as an example to foreground how just one vote can overthrow the formidable central government of the world’s largest democracy (Team TOI Plus, 2021). This was simply an analogy to highlight the difference that one MP can make in the Parliament. Consequently, the court demanded compensation for losing two MPs in 1976 due to a reduction in the population in Tamilnadu. It raised an essential question of why the state had to forfeit its Lokh Sabha seats for controlling its population effectively.
India’s population is reckoned to surpass China, the former most populous nation in the world (Sundaram,2023). However, just two northern states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh will contribute to one-third of the population growth in India over the next ten years and are not expected to stabilise until 2039. On the inverse, Southern states like Kerala have already reached this level of population stabilisation as early as 1998 (Peterson,2022). This highly skewed population growth can impact individual states under Article 18.
Delimitation is the procedure by which the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies are drawn. Article 81 states that the number of Lokh Sabha seats allotted to each state depends on its population, leaving the South with fewer constituencies than the north. This form of proportional representation has the potential to disenfranchise the southern states politically while the centre continues to gain from their economic contributions. During Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976, the Constitution was amended to ease these concerns. The 1971 Census determined the number of seats each state had in the Parliament, and this was frozen and to be used as the benchmark until 2001 by the constitutional change. However, in 2001, the Parliament extended this outdated exercise until 2026 due to its expediency.
The New Parliament Building
Political scientist Alistair McMillan suggested that an optimal solution to this problem would be to expand Lokh Sabha seats so that overrepresented states like Tamilnadu would retain seats under reapportionment. The late President Pranab Mukherjee advocated for the same in December 2019, calling for increasing the number of Lokh Sabha seats from the current 543 to 1,000 and increasing the size of the Rajya Sabha in proportion as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi executed Mr Mukherjee’s vision when he laid the foundation stone for the new parliamentary building on 10th December 2020 (The Hindu,2020). This strategic move provides a solution by ensur- ing that no state loses its representation, yet ironic in the sense that the northern states will now be embellished with more seats than ever before.
While we still cling to the “one man, one vote” ideal, the implications for Indian politics could be profound. The more populated Hindi states currently control the nation’s political landscape, and any adjustment to the current distribution of seats will work in their favour and solidify their dominance. For instance, the Bharatiya Janata Party won 51% of the seats it sought in the 2014 Lokh Sabha election only from four states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh (Daniyal, 2018). This ratio would have been significantly greater if seats were distributed in proportion to population.
The Federal Strain And Possible Solutions
Disunity could be bred by a central administration that does not adequately represent all of the Union’s states. This is particularly true for the South, where states have traditionally felt neglected. For instance, J. Jayalalithaa, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, opposed the Goods and Services Tax (The Hindu, 2011) on the grounds that it would harm the state but was unable to stop the passing of the bill since the state had so few MPs in the Lokh Sabha.
The ideal scenario of power equivalence is the one envisioned by Ambedkar, “The Constitution is a Federal Constitution…The Union is not a league of states, nor are the states the agencies of the Union, deriving powers from it”. The second thesis of Yadhav and Palshikar maintains the same stance that the intensification of regional politics does not mean to weaker their link from the center. Yet these centralising tendencies have put forth a notion of the States vs the Center, questioning the foundation that binds the country – democratic federalism.
In most political scenarios, following the west has not proved fruitful for our nation as it often dismisses the cultural aspects of the Indian subcontinent. Nevertheless, to set foot on the problem once and for all, the government could take up the United States’ model, where in the other house, each state, irrespective of its demographics, is represented by two members. People res- onate with politics in the most authentic form at the state level, which makes the representation of the state a democratic priority at the union level. Even national parties that contest at the state level are essentially different units, though they contest under the roof of the same ideology. While it might appear to the Center that federalism might lead to provincial autonomy, the uni- tary system, on the inverse, will lead to agitation in the form that the ideologies of the Center only reflect the cultures of the northern states. For instance, Union Home Minister Amit Shah advocated for the acceptance of Hindi as an alternative to English, as 70% of the Cabinet’s agen- da is produced in Hindi. This was met with protest by the CM of Tamilnadu, M.K. Stalin, who pointed out that the Home minister failed to account for the pluralism that prevails in the country(Kandaswamy, 2022). The Home Minister could have avoided these agitations had he considered the repercussions that took place in Tamilnadu in 1965 when teaching Hindi in schools became compulsory. Delimitation under current demographics can create a centre dominated by MPs from the north, who might fail to account for the political legacies and sentiments that shaped the South. The first thesis of Yadhav and Palshikar poses a similar argument that the po- litical legacy of movements holds greater significance than that of institutions or organisations.
The states seek not dominance but rather to be accommodated with equal bargaining power at the Center. As brought out in the seventh thesis of Yadhav and Palshikar, the rise of autonomy of state politics must not be confused with the rise of state power. The Center still reigns over critical policies, especially in the fiscal sphere. The difference in political outcomes experienced by different states, hence need to manifest at the central level in equity to ensure that the federalism of our country stays alive, and the most diplomatic solution would be to move away from proportional representation to standardised state representation.
We might have a Parliament of 1000 MPs, fairly proportional of states and their population; the more democratic question, however, lies in asking how representational they would be.
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