Lok Sabha Election 2019: How population, family planning are key factors in determining India’s Lower House representation
India is in the midst of the world's biggest General Election, where nearly 900 million voters will be electing members of the new Lok Sabha — the Lower House of the Parliament
The Lok Sabha did not always have 543 seats. Between 1952 and 1976, the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha rose steadily
As per the delimitation in 1971, even a Union Territory with a population of 10 lakh would get its own constituency
With India’s population more than doubling in the last five decades, there is now a crisis of malapportionment of the electorate
India is in the midst of the world's biggest General Election, where nearly 900 million voters will be electing members of the new Lok Sabha — the Lower House of the Parliament. Moreover, 15 million voters will be exercising their right to vote for the first time after turning 18 years of age. Spread across seven phases, the Lok Sabha polls began on 11 April and will conclude on 19 May. The counting of votes will take place on 23 May.
The Lok Sabha comprises 543 directly elected seats and two nominated members belonging to the Anglo-Indian community. However, the 543 directly-elected seats are distributed in varying proportion among the 29 states and seven Union Territories in India.
A brief look at the composition of the Lower House of the Indian Parliament and how the number of seats is determined for each state in the Union highlights how India’s electoral representation is influenced by population.
Seat division as per 1971 Census
The Lok Sabha did not always have 543 seats. Between 1952 and 1976, the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha rose steadily. During the 1952 elections, the Lok Sabha consisted of 489 seats. In the 1957 and 1962 elections, the Lok Sabha consisted of 494 seats. The 7th Amendment in 1956 capped the maximum number of elected seats at 520 — 500 from India's states and 20 from Union Territories.
In the first two Lok Sabha, there were also some two-member constituencies, wherein, as the name suggests, the electorate would elect two members from a single constituency. This practice was discontinued prior to the elections to the third Lok Sabha.
In the 1967 elections, the Lok Sabha composition underwent a major change as the number of seats rose to 520. The dramatic rise in the number of seats could be attributed to the population data of the 1961 Census. In the 1971 general elections, the number of seats in the Lok Sabha reduced by two – from 520 to 518.
With the passing of the 14th and the 31st Amendment, the maximum number of directly elected seats rose to 552, where 530 come from states and 20 from the Union Territories.
The 1977 elections, as epoch making as it was, also marked the beginning of a stable Lok Sabha. The number of seats remained at 542 until the 2004 elections. The number of seats were determined through the population Census of 1971. However, in 1976, the Congress government passed the 42nd Amendment, which froze the delimitation of Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assembly constituencies until after the 2001 Census. This was done by amending Article 170 (relating to composition of Legislative Assemblies) of the Constitution.
The sixth Lok Sabha also saw the number of nominated members being fixed at two – both belonging to the Anglo-Indian community. Prior to the sixth Lok Sabha, there was another nominated member belonging to the North East Frontier Agency (modern-day Arunachal Pradesh). Moreover, in the first three Lok Sabha, Andaman & Nicobar, Goa, Daman and Diu, and Lakshadweep too had nominated MPs.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government passed the 91st Constitutional Amendment Bill, which extended the stay on redrawing of India's electoral maps till 2026.
Currently, the Lok Sabha consists of 543 directly elected seats and two nominated members from the Anglo-Indian community.
Population factor key to determining seats
The Delimitation Commission of India, which is entrusted with the job of creating constituencies that have roughly the same population, subject to geographical considerations and the boundaries of the states. The Delimitation Commission was last formed in 2002 after the passing of the 84th Amendment. It was formed under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court Justice Kuldip Singh. However, due to the ban on increasing the number of seats, the commission only redrew the boundaries of the already existing constituencies. While the exercise created some new constituencies, they did not add to the existing 543 constituencies in the Lok Sabha.
The present composition of the Lok Sabha is based on the 1971 Census, as stated earlier in the report. As per the delimitation in 1971, even a Union Territory with a population of 10 lakh would get its own constituency. The average population size of the Lok Sabha constituency was pegged at 10 lakh. This meant that the seats were allotted to states in the ratio of 1:1,00,00,00. This ratio also roughly corresponded to the total population of India in 1971 — 54 crore.
However, with the Union government prioritising family planning and population control across India, the role of the Delimitation Commission greatly diminished in the next three decades. This had an indirect impact on the redrawing of the electoral maps. The main reason behind the NDA government’s push for the 84th Amendment too is attributed to the uneven successes of family planning in India.
While states in south India have achieved greater successes in population control, the same is not true about states in the Hindi heartland. By imposing an all-round delimitation of seats, there are high chances of states that were successful in population control losing Lok Sabha seats, while those failing to control their population gaining additional seats.
However, with India’s population more than doubling in the last five decades, there is now a crisis of malapportionment of the electorate. While a MP in Uttar Pradesh caters to around 3 million people in his constituency, the figure goes down to just 1.8 million in Tamil Nadu.
In 2001, political scientist Alistair McMillan documented the drastic over- and under-representation of the electorate. McMillan calculated that Tamil Nadu should have had seven fewer Lok Sabha seats, while Uttar Pradesh should have gained seven more. A Carnegie report in 2019 further added that in the event of a population-centric delimitation of seats, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan would gain 22 seats while the southern states will lose 17 seats.
Current composition in numbers
The state of Uttar Pradesh, which is the most populous in India, has 80 Lok Sabha seats, followed by Maharashtra with 48 seats. The eastern state of West Bengal sends 42 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Meanwhile, Bihar contributes 40 seats in the Lok Sabha. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu contributes 39 seats to the Lower House.
Except for Delhi, which sends 7 MPs to the Lok Sabha, every other Union Territory is only represented by a single Member of Parliament. The North East states of Sikkim, Mizoram and Nagaland too send one MPs each to the Lower House of the Parliament. Others states in the region like Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya contribute two seats each. Goa, India's smallest state, too sends two representatives to the Lok Sabha.
Gujarat elects 26 MPs while Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh send 25 MPs each to the Lok Sabha. Karnataka consists of 28 constituencies while Madhya Pradesh comprises of 29 constituencies. Kerala, Odisha and Telangana send 20, 21 and 17 MPs respectively to the Lower House of the Parliament. Punjab, Haryana and Chhattisgarh elect 13, 10 and 11 Lok Sabha members respectively. States of Assam and Jharkhand send 14 MPs each to the Lok Sabha. The state of Jammu and Kashmir sends six MPs to the Lok Sabha.
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