With the delimitation exercise looming in 2026, politicians in the South are waking up to the fact that their falling populations would see them losing seats in the Lok Sabha, with states with rising populations getting greater representation.
The latest to comment on the issue is BRS working president and Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao.
KTR, as he is popularly known, said on Monday, 25 September, that a strong people’s movement could emerge in the southern states if the exercise of delimitation leads to a decline in the number of seats.
He was responding to reports indicating a decline in the number of Lok Sabha constituencies in the southern states following delimitation if seats are revised on the basis of the projected population for 2026.
“This delimitation (if the numbers reported are right) will lead to a strong people’s movement in the entire Southern India. We are all proud Indians and representatives of the best performing states of India,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.
‘Hope wisdom prevails’
“We will not remain mute spectators if the voices and representation of our people in the country’s highest democratic forum are suppressed. Hope wisdom prevails and Delhi is listening,” said Rama Rao, son of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.
This delimitation (if the numbers reported are right) will lead to a strong people’s movement in the entire Southern India
We are all proud Indians & representatives of the best performing states of India
We will not remain mute spectators if the voices and representation of… https://t.co/RJcRZT2BTk
— KTR (@KTRBRS) September 25, 2023
The delimitation process — or the readjustment of seat allocation in the Lok Sabha (and the state Assemblies) to represent changes in population — would ensure more MPs for the northern states than the southern states.
India conducted its last delimitation exercise that changed the state-wise composition of the Lok Sabha in 1976, based on the 1971 population figures.
The goal of delimitation is to create electoral districts that are roughly equal in population size so that each citizen’s vote carries about the same weight.
The 42nd amendment to the Indian Constitution froze the delimitation exercise for 25 years until 2001, which was subsequently extended by another 25 years until 2026.
Southern states likely to lose out
The 2026 delimitation exercise will be dependent on the latest population figures; it is here that the southern states are likely to lose out.
The question is, lose out by how much? An indication can be had from a 2019 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Published just weeks before the general elections that year, the report said northern states would gain more than 32 seats because of delimitation, with the south losing about 24.
Specifically, the report, titled ‘India’s Emerging Crisis of Representation’, said Bihar and Uttar Pradesh alone would get 21 more seats, while Tamil Nadu and Kerala would get 16 less.
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal would account for 33 percent of Lok Sabha seats by 2026 — the earliest the delimitation process could start.
Gangetic belt would decide the government
It estimated that if parliamentary seats were to be reallocated on the basis of population now, the Gangetic belt would send 275 of 543 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
Congress MP from Kerala, Shashi Tharoor, raised these very concerns at South First’s Dakshin Dialogues conclave, where he said that “in a situation where there is a particularly strong majoritarian party in power at the Centre with say a Hindi-Hindustan-Hindutva agenda, the Southern states collectively could find themselves unable to prevent any Constitutional Amendment”.
It also estimated that by 2026, the number of people each parliamentarian in the Gangetic belt would represent would rise by 2.9 million, thanks to the region’s high fertility rates.
As Rama Rao, speaking at South First’s Dakshin Dialogues, said: “The southern states are going to find that one of the rewards for their good economic performance, low levels of fertility of women, high levels of empowerment and education of women and thereby lower population, is going to be a loss of political and economic power at the Union level.”