[Editorial] Delimitation of the constituencies – Impacts, challenges, and the way forward

Context: 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.

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.

Quick revision mind map

What is the delimitation of the constituencies?

  • Boundary delimitation (or simply delimitation) is the drawing of boundaries, particularly of the electoral precinct, states, countries or other municipalities.
  • In the context of elections, it can be called redistribution and is used to prevent unbalance of the population across districts.
  • It is done in a country to represent changes in population.

Why was a delimitation freeze put in position?

  • 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 fewer MPs to those that have held their numbers in some check.
  • Realizing 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.

Impact of the delimitation

A reduced representation for some states:

  • Re-arranging and standardizing the number of people per constituency through the scheduled delimitation exercise will inevitably lead to a reduced representation for States that have managed to stabilize their populations, and to a higher representation for States that have not stabilized 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.

Why there is an immediate need to increase the number of members in Parliament?

  • Mathematically speaking, the higher the number of people per constituency, the lower the impact each voter has on parliamentary representation — clearly an undesirable situation.
  • We cannot have, should not have, the same number of Members of Parliament — 543 — representing a vastly increased population in the Lok Sabha.

Way forward

Another freeze:

  • One alternative before us is to go for another freeze until all States have achieved population stabilization.

A mathematical model for the apportionment of the seats:

  • There is a need for the demographic and statistical experts to devise a mathematical model that customizes our needs along the lines of the ‘Cambridge Compromise’ based on a mathematically equitable “formula” for the apportionment of the seats.

Practice Question for Mains

  1. Given the complications of the Indian demographic scene, and the distorted shadow that Census data may cast on the delimitation process, we need to limit population, not representation. Critically examine. (250 Words, 15 Marks).
Referred Sources

TH

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