Analysis: Delimitation and its Impact on Representative Democracy in India
The Constitution (One Hundred and TwentyEighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, promises a 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. While this Bill has its own importance, it brings attention to another critical issue delimitation of electoral constituencies. The term "delimitation" refers to the process of carving electoral constituencies and fixing their boundaries, which is essential for representative democracy.
Delimitation has been a point of concern since the 1970s. The Constitution (FortySecond Amendment) Act, 1976, froze delimitation based on the 1971 Census until the 2001 Census. However, the day of reckoning was pushed further to 2026 through the Constitution (EightyFourth Amendment) Act.
For instance, Lok Sabha constituencies remain as they were in 1971, despite significant changes in population demographics. This decision was taken to allay concerns of states that were effective in population control but feared a reduction in their representation.
Article 81 of the Indian Constitution allocates Lok Sabha seats in proportion to the population of each state. This means that the 1971 Census data still determines the number of seats, which has created an imbalance in representation.
MPs from northern states currently represent a greater number of people than MPs from southern states due to population growth differentials, leading to unequal representation.
The next delimitation process will require answers to several critical questions. These include the source of the population figures that will inform the exercise and the impact on states with diverse fertility rates. It is expected that the next Census and subsequent delimitation will occur after the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
A recent delimitation exercise in Assam led to changes in district boundaries and renaming of certain constituencies, which had significant implications for the representation of specific communities.
The issue also implicates constitutional values like federalism. States in the south risk losing their parliamentary seats if delimitation is based on current population figures, leading to regional disparities.
Southern states may lose some of their Lok Sabha seats, tilting the balance of power towards the north, and possibly leading to regional tensions.
The debate on delimitation is a crucial part of the larger discussion on representative democracy in India. To make this exercise effective and fair, a robust dialogue involving all stakeholders is essential. Whether it's the question of source data or the broader issues of federalism and equitable representation, delimitation cannot be ignored any longer.