Saturday, March 29, 2008

Redrawing Constituencies: The Basics, and the Implications of recent legislation

M.R. Madhavan, the Head of Research at PRS Legislative Research, has an insightful column in today’s Indian Express where he explains the history of the practice of delimitation of constituencies in India, while also providing basic facts and explanations about the policy dilemmas involved. His piece is written against the backdrop of recent legislative efforts in this respect, and Madhavan also explains details of the process that is now afoot.

He describes a significant implication of the current process as follows:

The number of seats in each state remains unchanged. An important implication is that the Hindi heartland would be under-represented in Parliament to the benefit of the southern states. That is, the 11 Hindi speaking states and Union territories would have 18 seats less than their population share, while the 6 southern states/UTs will have 12 more than theirs. The next delimitation will not be carried out before 2026. Given the continued divergence in population growth, the under-representation of Hindi states would increase to 37 seats and over-representation of the south to 26 seats by 2026. In the next election, Uttar Pradesh alone would have a deficit of 8 seats, which would widen to 16 seats by 2026.

In the remaining part of the article, he analyses the issues that arise as a result of this decision. The implications seem staggering even to those (like me) who are probably getting exposed to this area of the law for the first time. For some inexplicable reason, despite the importance of elections in India, analysis of electoral laws has not received the prominence in constitutional law that it deserves. In other constitutional democracies, this area of the law garners prominent attention among constitutional scholars. Perhaps the legal community in India would do well to go beyond focusing on the more dramatic aspects of election law (issues arising out of Article 356, the provisions of the Representation of People’s Act that gained prominence in the Hindutva cases, etc).

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