Editorial: More to come
Speculation that the Narendra Modi-led government may decide on a delimitation exercise before the 2024 general elections is cause for concern among Opposition-ruled states. Recently, Shashi Tharoor, the Congress member of parliament, referred to this possibility, describing the reapportioning of seats in Parliament as a serious threat, because the southern states would then no longer form an ‘effective bloc’ there. Manish Tewari, the Congress leader, too, mentioned a ‘proposal’ for delimitation he had heard of. He said that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government planned to increase Lok Sabha seats from 543 to 1,000; the Lok Sabha chamber in the new Parliament building in the Central Vista would have space for 1,000 seats. Delimitation, the redrawing of the boundaries of assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies, becomes necessary with changes in population, since some equivalence is sought in the number of electors that each legislator represents. It is meant to take place, therefore, after each census, although the practice was frozen by constitutional mandate till 2026 some years ago. One reason for this was to view the results of population control measures before readjusting constituencies for proportional representation. The Opposition has apprehensions that the BJP might push through a constitutional amendment to conduct delimitation before 2024 by force of its majority in Parliament.
That, according to the Opposition’s perceptions, would be advantageous to the BJP. Since delimitation depends on population figures, those states which have successfully controlled population growth would lose out on parliamentary seats. In the federal union envisaged by the Constitution-makers, this would not have mattered, but things are different now. The southern states, with better results in population control, fear losing some seats, or gaining less than states in the north — Uttar Pradesh would gain considerably, for example — because they have been less successful in controlling their populations. In an India afflicted with the BJP’s divisive attitude, the political, cultural and linguistic opposition of the South may then lose some of its impact in Parliament. The possibility of a pre-2024 delimitation may have been strengthened by the fact that Mr Modi’s government has been rattled by BJP defeats in a couple of states and by criticism of its handling of the pandemic, farmers’ protests and the suspected use of spyware on Indian citizens. A Lok Sabha further loaded in its favour would be useful.