M’laya, other NE states may only have one LS member

From CK Nayak

NEW DELHI, Nov 20: Meghalaya and some other Northeastern states which have only two members in the Lok Sabha might see the number reduced to just one due to an anomaly between demography and the next delimitation process due in 2026, all in the name of democracy!
The Northeastern states like Mizoram and Sikkim will however not be affected since they have only MP each in the Lok Sabha which is the minimum number. The rest of the states, excluding Assam, have one minimum seat in the Rajya Sabha too.
Along with the Northeastern states, some southern and eastern states will also have fewer MPs in the Lok Sabha than what they have now as a result of the 2026 delimitation, predicted Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former administrator, diplomat and ex-Governor of West Bengal.
The basic principle of delimitation is to redefine the number and nature of a constituency for the Parliament and Assemblies as per the number and pattern of population in the respective areas. It is ironic that some states like Meghalaya have seen a small increase in their population while others like Uttar Pradesh have seen a massive increase, enabling them to have more seats in the Lok Sabha.
This fall in population growth is due to various family welfare and birth control measures which, otherwise, is a positive sign. The population growth rate in Meghalaya between 1981 and 2011 has actually declined. The growth rate between 1981 and 1991 was 32.86%, whereas it was 30.65% between 1991 and 2001, Census figures show.
As per the National Family Health Survey-5, Meghalaya, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Manipur are above the replacement level as far as growth in population is concerned. As a whole India’s population growth appears to be stabilising.
“The Total Fertility Rate – more or less the average number of children born per woman – has declined from 2.2 to 2.0 at the national level,” a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report said.
The delimitation of the constituencies that will elect members of the Lok Sabha, following the population figures returned by the next decennial census, is to take place in 2026, as per the Constitution.
More people, the Constitution noted, should mean more MPs which sounds logical.
But such a population-based marking out or re-arrangement of constituencies will have the effect it is meant to have: giving more MPs to the states and Union territories that have that more people.
On the other hand, the same exercise will give markedly less MPs to those sates like Meghalaya that have held their population numbers in check. This is not only an ‘anomaly’, but also seems to have been made for this situation. ‘Piquant’, as well, analysts said.
Foreseeing that delimitation based on census data would create a political anomaly and a civilisational piquancy, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, through the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution in 1976, froze the process. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, through the 84th Amendment, froze it yet again.
Going by the census data for 2011 and projections made by the technical group formed by the National Commission on Population, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, for 2011-36, India’s population will vary from state to state, mostly region-wide.
Broadly speaking, the south, the east and the Northeast will have fewer MPs in the Lok Sabha as a result of the 2026 delimitation. So will Maharashtra, Punjab and Delhi, among others, from the west and north. All of them for the reason that their awareness of the importance of family planning and access to methods for it have been good — an achievement of people-policy-partnership, verily a joint venture, analysts said.
A delimitation exercise that adds electoral value to one set of states while depleting representative value to another is, to use a phrase coined by Amartya Sen in another context, ‘valuationally gross’. It cannot but be seen as an unfair punishment where there should be a deserved reward. Demography and democracy must go hand in hand in a country which takes electoral representation seriously and in a republic which sets store by federal principles, this becomes even more important.
Eminent media-personality, author and family welfare communicator par excellence, Rami Chhabra said that the delimitation exercise is also going to, ipso facto, deepen the representational disadvantage faced by women. It is the women who played a significant role in the population-controlling states.
Most political watchers are training their eyes on India two years from now — in 2024 — when the next general elections are due but population watchers are looking at four years from now — 2026 — when India’s electoral democracy is going to do a ‘handhold’ with India’s demography.

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