marked the end of the Constitutional freeze and the issue
had to be reopened. Once again the Parliament unanimously
amended the Constitution to freeze the number of Assembly
and Lok Sabha seats in each state until 2026, and delimit
afresh these constituencies on the basis of 1991 census.
There shall be no further delimitation until 2026. If delimitation
for parliamentary constituencies is undertaken, states like
Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala will lose
substantial representation and states like Uttar Pradesh,
Bihar and Madhya Pradesh will gain significant number of
seats. Therefore the new constitutional amendment was enacted
in order to uphold the federal balance.
within each state, there have been vast demographic changes.
For example, if you consider Hyderabad city, you have Maharanigunj
Assembly constituency with approximately 100,000 voters
and on the other side there is Khairatabad constituency
with 600,000 voters! Delimitation is meant to remove such
is a serious exercise of great political significance as
it affects the representation of people in legislatures.
It can also be an intensely partisan exercise as it usually
is in the US. The party with a majority in the US has a
major say in redistricting and unusual shapes of constituencies
are common in order to contrive a majority for a party.
The term gerrymandering has its origins in a constituency
which was shaped like a salamander, and the governor under
whose stewardship it was created was Elbridge Gerry.
fortunately has a tradition of an independent Delimitation
Commission established by law. The present Commission (under
the 2002 Law) is chaired by Justice Kuldip Singh, a former
Supreme Court judge and Mr Tandon, the member of Election
Commission, and the State Election Commission of the respective
state (for that state) are members of this Commission. A
few members of Parliament and Assembly from each state are
associate members without any voting rights.
time around the Commission has taken a very curious approach
to this democratic exercise affecting the political boundaries
and electoral arithmetic. Instead of opening up the process
and conducting its proceedings transparently, the activities
of the Commission are shrouded in absolute secrecy. The
Commission directed election officials not to divulge even
routine information on public record like maps of existing
constituencies, their relationship with administrative units
and population details. This blanket ban on revealing information,
which ought to be in the public domain, is a strange and
retrograde approach in this era of information and communication
and enactment of a Right to Information Law!
commission has not so far held any single meeting with all
members to finalise the guidelines for delimitation. The
officials are preparing proposals in utmost secrecy without
involving the state election commissioners, associate members
or political parties. There are several state-specific issues
which need to be addressed. For instance in AP we have small
administrative units called Mandals with about 50,000 -
60,000 population. Just as an Assembly constituency always
forms part of a Lok Sabha constituency, we should make sure
that a Mandal falls within an Assembly constituency. This
organic linkage between local, state and national representation
is necessary for a healthy democracy.
reservations for S Cs require to be well-spread out to ensure
fairness and dispersion. If all reservations for Assembly
or Parliament are done mechanically, many constituencies
in a district or region may be reserved, leaving vast areas
unrepresented by SCs.
any delimitation affects the political fortunes of various
parties and candidates. A slight alteration in the boundaries
can alter the relative weight of social groups. Therefore
complete transparency is vital to give confidence to all
stakeholders about the fairness of the process.
press reports indicated that the Commission officials held
meetings of district collectors in utmost secrecy to finalise
draft delimitation proposals. When the venue was revealed
by the media, it was changed in the last minute to ensure
secrecy! Such obsession with secrecy in a democratic exercise
smacks of arrogance and contempt for the political process.
Delimitation Commission would be wise to evolve objective,
fair and acceptable guidelines in consultation with the
political parties, media and public, and then undertake
redrawing of political boundaries. We all have developed
a healthy skepticism of the political parties over the years.
But this skepticism should not degenerate into revulsion
is the essence of democracy and people's sovereignty. Our
endeavor should be to improve politics, not to stifle it.
Constitutional authorities and statutory bodies in recent
times have tended to act imperiously because of the popular
disenchantment with politics of corruption and venality.
The only antidote to bad politics is more and better politics,
not negation of politics and public discourse.