Dr Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
All the political parties are throwing the dice of delimitation into the campaign domain to build a narrative that suits them electorally. Tamil Nadu politicians, the past masters in raking up the South Vs. North contentions, are first to pick up the looming threat of losing seats in the Lok Sabha as and when the next delimitation exercise is done. The ruling party in Telangana, BRS, joined the chorus and other southern states are not that vocal on the issue. For the other states in the north, west and eastern parts of India this delimitation is not an issue of concern.
The delimitation is the process of fixing the limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body, as per the Election Commission of India (ECI), done after every census. Delimitation is not arbitrarily done neither by the Government of India but is assigned to a high powered body known as delimitation commission that includes the representatives from political parties and that was the procedure since India had its first general elections in 1952. The Delimitation Acts were made subsequently in 1962, 1972, and 2002. However because of the Indira Gandhi government decision, during the emergency, to impose a moratorium on the number of constituencies till 2000 and same moratorium was extended up to 2026 by Vajpayee lead NDA government that the delimitation of constituencies got delayed by over five decades. The census based redrawing of constituencies is due in 2026 and till now no policy announcement is made by Narendra Modi government to initiate the Delimitation Act, barring building a new parliament which can accommodate near 900 members. Despite that official position, the political parties are in speculation regarding likely gains and losses for them. The media, the statisticians, academicians have added further sparks to the volatile delimitation concerns of different states and parties. All the apprehensions are fuelled based on speculation that the next delimitation will be done on the basis of population alone, as done earlier.
The tagging of the recently passed women reservation bill and the announcement BC caste census made in Bihar and the general demand for the caste census by the political parties has been intensified the politics of delimitation. The Covid19 hit census is not yet taken up. The reservation component for OBCs in the women reservation is not clearly made. The women reservations are mandated to be implemented only after next census. Delimitation has to be done by 2026. All those are politically linked hence every party is positioning to gain its’ pie in census-delimitation-women reservation matrix.
Ruling BJP wish to have the census, delimitation done first and then go for the implementation of the reservations for women. By doing so BJP thinks it will get the breather from the murmur of male politicians whose seats are sure to go to women. Basing on the current Lok Sabha strength of 545, women share will take away 182 leaving only 363 seats for men. But with likely enhanced seat strength of 770-800, the men will retain 513 seats after the reservation of 257 seats exclusively for women. That way men will get more seats to contest and less chance to complain. This likely BJP advantage scenario is not to the liking of the opposition, but at the national level Congress or the north India based parties can’t raise the issue so it is entrusted to their friends in I.N.D.I.A like DMK to take on the population linked seat enhancement.
The delimitation issue turned out to be a political issue even before the exercise is formally notified. In their hurry to break the OBC consolidation behind the BJP, the opposition has taken up the caste count demand. Their argument was that resources and government sponsored welfare measures will not the intended beneficiaries unless the hard data of OBC is available with the authorities. Rahul Gandhi coined a slogan “Jitni aabaadi; utna haq” meaning that allotments should be made on the numerical strength of the castes. The Nitish Kumar government came out with OBC census to buttress the slogan of Rahul Gandhi by somehow computing a over 60% OBC caste data.
The I.N.D.I.A group thought that they have cornered Modi by the slogan of Rahul Gandhi and OBC data culled by Nitish Kumar in Bihar. But they were stunned when Modi lobbed their numbers game by tagging that to that of delimitation. During Modi’s recent visit to the election bound state of Telangana he brought out the fallacy of argument of I.N.D.I.A which is likely to hit the southern states. If the Rahul Gandhi and Nitish Kumar’s contention of population based benefits is to be accepted and applied to the delimitation the five states from the south are the losers in the Lok Sabha seat allotment. By insisting on the number and sticking to the “jitni abaadi; utna haq”, Modi argued the lack of vision for I.N.D.I.A regarding the voice of South.
This counter attack from BJP put the I.N.D.I.A leaders into defense and southern leaders M.K. Stalin, DMK chief and Tamil Nadu CM and Kerala CM and CPM leader Pinnarayi Vijayan into a dilemma of supporting or opposing the caste census initiated by Nitish Kumar. The clamour for caste census of the north Indian regional parties and Congress is not shared by the Southern states as these states has already achieved the upward mobility of OBCs and perhaps three states are ruled by OBC CMs. While northern states wants the population linked schemes the southern states wish not to have any link between population and the number of seats they get in the Lok Sabha.
The population based constituencies is certainly going to hurt the number of representatives from those states in the parliament. Sothern states being more educated took to the family planning enthusiastically and helped in controlling the population growth. Though it was done voluntarily by south Indians, certainly not on political motivation, for the economic benefits of their families the political leaders are trying to use this population issue for their electoral advantage.
The states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which are already enjoying numerical advantage in the parliament and representation in the cabinet will gain disproportionately. The successive governments of UP and Bihar failed to implement the family planning scheme and those parties which lead those governments are trying to gain politically basing on the increased population and the gain on the number of seats in parliament through caste census.
The motto of I.N.D.I.A group on its insistence of counting OBC is to break the hold BJP gained in those caste groups. It is more a political rather than the good intention to help OBC. So the delimitation issue naturally takes a political dimension and the south and north states may have to reshape their politics on number through in different ways. But the politics on delimitation will continue till the last minute.
(Author is retired professor. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])