In 1952, boundaries were drawn across the map of India breaking the country up into 489 areas of roughly the same population size. These became the constituency through which the public would vote for their Lok Sabha representative. The process is called “delimitation” and more than 150 countries use it to ensure equal representation for equal population in the Parliament.
Sounds foolproof, right? Wrong. India’s previous constituencies were drawn 50 years ago, and even though our population has changed significantly since then, our boundaries have not. These numbers show just how messed up political representation in India is:
10 – The number of years after which electoral maps are required to be redrawn
In India, the delimitation process is meant to take place every decade, as soon as the census data is released. But in 1976, we took the decision to “freeze” delimitation for a 25-year period. Unfortunately, when this 25-year period was up in 2001, the Parliament decided to extend the freeze by yet another 25 years!
25% – The birth rate of backward states like Uttar Pradesh
Essentially, states with higher population stood to gain from delimitation because they would be allocated more seats in Parliament. This was in direct conflict with India’s state-run family planning programs that were meant to slow down our population explosion. And so the freeze. But even 50 years later, states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar continue to have explosive birth rates like 25%, compared to progressive states like Kerala that have a 4.7% birth rate. Clearly, the ban has backfired.
33% – Percentage of India’s urban population
Meanwhile, India’s urban population has skyrocketed! 33% of India’s population now lives in urban areas in politically under-represented states like Delhi (7 seats), Tamil Nadu (39 seats), Kerala (20 seats), Maharashtra (48 seats) and Gujarat (26 seats). It’s worth noting that barely a handful of seats in these states are “urban”. In fact, urban seats make up only 7.3% of the total seats in Lok Sabha.
53 – No. of urban constituencies in India, out of 543
With only 53 predominantly urban constituencies, a whopping 1/3 of our population is living in less than 10% of our constituencies.
20 lakhs – The number of voters each constituency should represent
1.2 billion people divvied up into 543 constituencies. That means each constituency in India should be made up of 20-24 lakh people. That’s terrible compared to other democratic countries, where each MP in the UK represents only 1 lakh people.
66x – The size difference between India’s biggest and smallest constituency
This is the population of India’s smallest constituency, Lakshadweep. On the other hand, Malkajgiri in Arunachal Pradesh is India’s largest constituency with approximately 31.8 lakh registered voters in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. That’s 66x bigger in size!
2x – Population difference between 2 states having the same number of LS seats
West Bengals’ population is 9.03 crores while Andhra Pradesh’s is almost half, at 4.9 crores. Despite such a large difference in their populations, both states have 42 seats in the Lok Sabha.
11% – Population increase in urban areas
Thanks to growing rural-to-urban migration and the development of rural areas into tier 2 or 3 cities, the population in urban areas is increasing by 11% compared to rural constituencies (2011 census). This means that there are more cities, and they’re more crowded than ever before. Yet urban planners don’t allocate enough funds or attention to these growing constituencies.
50% – The population in India’s urban areas by 2030
India’s next delimitation exercise is scheduled for 2026, 5 decades after the previous one. This is far from ideal considering our country will have nearly 50% of the population living in cities by then.
If our Government and urban planners don’t step up to the plate soon, we’re going to have a real administrative crisis on our hands. Current figures of India’s constituencies are far from democratic and it’s time for higher representation in the Parliament.