Madras HC voiced southern states’ concern

Madras HC voiced southern states’ concern

Madras HC voiced southern states’ concern

Madras High Court. Credit: iStock photo

The Madras High Court’s observations on the decrease in the political representation of Tamil Nadu in the Lok Sabha are significant in view of the rising concern in some states over the consequences of the delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies, scheduled to be done post-2026. Till 1962, Tamil Nadu had 41 seats in the Lok Sabha, but this was reduced to 39 in 1967 because the state’s population growth declined as a result of its success in implementing family welfare measures. The number of seats for a state in the Lok Sabha is linked to its population as there has to be an equivalence in the number of electors that a legislator represents. The court observed that the reduction in Tamil Nadu’s seats was "unfair and unreasonable.’’ It posed some questions and made some proposals to address the problem.

There is concern among Opposition parties over the matter. Some Congress leaders have alleged that the Modi government plans to bring about a constitutional amendment and conduct delimitation before the 2024 elections to raise the number of Lok Sabha seats to 1,000. Since the population has increased in the northern states faster than in the southern states, the former will get higher representation in the House than the latter. Delimitation was originally meant to take place after every census but because of the differential rise in population, it was decided to freeze the exercise until after 2026. Holding it even post-2026 would go against states that have reduced their populations. The Opposition thinks that the government may go in for delimitation now because it will be advantageous to the BJP as the states where it is dominant will get more seats and those where it is weak will see a fall in seats.

The court noted that changes in the number of seats would increase or decrease the political power of states. It said that the loss of even one seat is important, and recalled that the Vajpayee government lost the no-confidence vote in 1999 by one vote. It suggested that the states facing loss of political representation should be compensated either financially or with higher representation in the Rajya Sabha. But neither of these suggestions would be enough to make up for the loss of Lok Sabha seats. Either the freeze on delimitation should be extended beyond 2026 or the number of seats should be increased in such a way that the present relative balance of political power among states is maintained. Even this is debatable, because even an absolute number of one seat can make and unmake governments. It must, in any case, be ensured that states that have slowed down their population growth do not suffer for that.

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