The Fourth delimitation exercise was conducted 30 years after the previous exercise was done in 1972-76. One expected that this exercise will be
based on democratic principles of consulting the people and will be done in the best interests of the people. But this has not happened. In the process of redrawing the political map of India, the delimitation exercise has caused dangerous divisions among the people and raised new controversies. The exercise has further strengthened the hands of vested interests who are against the participation of the people in the political process and their playing a decisive role in it.
The delimitation exercise did not address the fundamental issue of bringing people into the mainstream of political process by redefining the boundaries of constituencies in such a manner that it becomes easier for the people to participate in the parliamentary and assembly elections and select and elect their own candidates. The Commission was asked to redraw the boundaries of parliamentary and assembly constituencies while keeping the total number of constituencies frozen on the basis of the Census of 1971. This is total violation of democratic principles. The population has nearly doubled over the last 35 years. By freezing the total number of constituencies so that constituencies have become double their earlier size, the delimitation Commission has further strengthened the domination of big political parties over the political and electoral process. By the next delimitation exercise it is projected that an MP will represent 25 lakh people in some constituencies! With this kind of size of the constituency, only the very rich and powerful can take part in the elections, thus strengthening the party-dominated political process.
The argument that reallocation of parliamentary and assembly seats on the basis of the recent Census will penalise the southern states where population increased at a slower rate than some of the northern states, was used to justify the freeze on the total number of constituencies and their reallocation between states. But why could not more constituencies be created in parliament and the assemblies on a rational basis so that people find it easier to participate in the political process? Some countries such as the United Kingdom with 1/20th the population of India have more seats in the lower house. China with one and a half times the population of India has about 5 times more seats in her Parliament.
Since the government has frozen the number of seats till 2032, what it means is that the principle of equality of representation has been violated. A representative in the thickly populated states will represent many more people than the representative in the thinly populated states. This is again a total breach of democratic principles.
The existing party-dominated political process, large size of constituencies marginalizing the people, arbitrariness in reserving seats for sections of the people, etc have caused a lot of mistrust and division between the people. In Uttarakhand, for example, three districts – Hardwar, Dehradun, and Udham Singh Nagar will between them have 50% of the seats in the assembly since they are heavily populated. As many as 60 of the 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra are now centred in and around Mumbai and Thane.
By freezing the number of constituencies and then redrawing the boundaries within this limitation, the Indian government has set people against one another and this doesn’t seem to be an innocent move. The government has set the urban people against the rural people, people belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes against others. Four north-eastern states and Jharkhand have rejected the Delimitation Commission’s recommendations.
The provisions for declaring a constituency as reserved have opened the floodgates of discrimination and political manipulation. The Commission has rotated reserved constituencies in an arbitrary or prejudicial manner. In most states there is resentment against the efforts of the Commission to reserve new constituencies or de-reserve existing ones without consulting the people.
One of the anomalies that still exist is that the three tiers of the political structure, i.e., the constituencies of the Lok Sabha, state assembly and urban and local bodies have not been integrated. There are two sets of voters lists, one for the Lok Sabha and assembly elections, and another for the local bodies. This has not been addressed in the recent delimitation exercise.
The prevailing system of representative democracy has many anomalies and is anachronistic. In this system, it is the political parties which select candidates. The electoral process is dominated by money and muscle power. The candidates do not render accounts to the people who elected them but to the political parties who gave them the ticket. By using arbitrary criteria, the ruling class keeps the people at loggerheads by reserving or de-reserving constituencies at will.
Considering these anomalies it is time that we look at direct democracy as a viable and inevitable alternative to the system of representative democracy. In this system, it is not the parties but the people of a constituency and peer groups who will select and elect their candidates to represent them. The people will have the right to recall their representatives whenever necessary. They will have the right to initiate legislation. These rights will be enabled through constitutional provisions and statutory enabling mechanisms. In the system of direct democracy, constituencies will be delimited in such a way that all voters have equal votes and have equal opportunity to be selected as candidates. In the system of direct democracy the state will fund the electoral process, thus eliminating the money and muscle power of the big political parties.
by S. Raghavan