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Doubting Delimitation

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There is concern being expressed by South Indian politicians that delimitation would reduce the region’s representation in Parliament, because their ‘successful’ family planning policies have led to a smaller population. Those who did not ‘comply’ with these policies in the North Indian states would benefit. On the face of it, this may seem a valid concern but just imagine if the makers of the Indian Constitution had thought in similar manner. There were many similar reasons why universal suffrage could have been denied – how can the majority illiterate people have the same rights as the literate ones; what are the poor bringing to the table; should not the royals and zamindars who gave up so much be given a greater say, and so on? Remember, women in Switzerland got the right to vote as late as 1971. Blacks and women had to really struggle to be considered equals in the so-called developed countries of today.

It is in this context that everybody acknowledges the greatness of the Indian Republic’s founders that they did not discriminate in any way. In fact, one of the reasons for Partition was the resolute objection to separate electorates that would have basically undone the democratic structure of the nation to be. Even reservations are a temporary provision, though extended well beyond the expiry date.

When looked at from this point of view, the claim of the South to be ‘different’ and requiring preservation of its present supposed clout as a distinct entity, is premised on the belief that political power comes from leveraging the many sub-national identities, rather than from having leadership qualities recognised by all sections of society. It takes for granted that someone from Tamil Nadu would not find popularity in the rest of India because the number of Tamils is comparatively small. Conceptually, this should not be the basis of policy making. Such concerns are more relevant to the Rajya Sabha, where the interests of states can be protected by freezing their share of representation, while increasing the number of seats overall.

Unfortunately, narrow political thinking has become the norm at the present. Politicians desperate to acquire power can descend to any level regardless of what impact that may have on the nation’s future. Even the courts, whose job it is to defend the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution, lack the clarity to shed the required light on the subject, if their recent approach to crucial issues is anything to go by. Which raises the concern, will India remain a truly representative democracy in the times to come?