The approval of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament has raised concerns among opposition parties in southern states about the delimitation process. They worry that the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats, which is based on population, could lead to reduced representation for the southern states. This is because they have successfully implemented family planning programs, resulting in lower population growth.
During a discussion on the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha, DMK MP Kanimozhi expressed concern that if the delimitation is based on population census, it could decrease the representation of southern states.
The Women’s Reservation Bill aims to provide 33% reservation for women in both Lok Sabha and state assemblies. However, this reservation will only come into effect after the completion of the delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies.
To carry out the delimitation process, the government needs to conduct the decennial Census, which has been postponed indefinitely since 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
If Lok Sabha seats are redistributed across states following the delimitation exercise, scheduled to take place after 2026, Tamil Nadu and Kerala could lose a combined total of 16 seats, according to a research paper published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
RSP MP N K Premachandran believes it is unfair for northern states to gain more seats at the expense of southern states. He emphasizes that this fear is real and the southern states could face a reduction in seats and political representation. He also points out that according to the Constitution, delimitation should be based on the 1971 census, and southern states should not be penalized for their success in population control.
According to a research paper titled ‘India’s Emerging Crisis of Representation’ by policy analysts Milan Vaishnav and Jaimie Hintson, states in North India could gain over 32 seats, while southern states may lose 24 seats in the redistribution. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh alone are projected to gain 21 seats, with UP’s seat count increasing from 80 to 91, and Bihar gaining an additional 10 seats.
It is important to note that the current strength of the Lok Sabha, with 543 seats, is based on the 1971 Census. Delimitation exercises were frozen by the 42nd amendment to the Constitution for 25 years, extending until 2001. This freeze was further extended for another 25 years, until 2026. According to Article 82 of the Constitution, only Census data post-2026 can be used for the delimitation process.