PM Modi says delimitation may cost southern states 100 LS seats. Really?

Prone to exaggeration, the prime minister has spooked southern states by suggesting that they may lose as many as 100 of their 129 Lok Sabha seats

PM Modi attempts to link Delimitation exercise with demand for proportional allocation of rights and resources, stirring debate (Photo: Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images)
PM Modi attempts to link Delimitation exercise with demand for proportional allocation of rights and resources, stirring debate (Photo: Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images)

A.J. Prabal

Stumped by Bihar having successfully rolled out the ‘caste census’, and the Opposition INDIA bloc promising to conduct a nationwide census if and when it is voted to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be busy testing the waters.

Addressing a political rally in Telangana, where assembly polls are due soon, PM Modi tried to link the demand for ‘jitni abaadi, utna haq’ or proportional allocation of rights and resources, to the delimitation exercise, which in turn he seemed to mix up with the caste census. The mainstream media and the BJP thought this was another masterstroke.

In a frankly dubious attempt to link delimitation of constituencies, a move put off until 2026, to the slogan, the prime minister said if population size was to determine everything, including constituencies, then the southern states stood to lose as many as 100 seats in the Lok Sabha after delimitation.

The prime minister was, of course, exaggerating as usual. South Indian states account for 129 seats in the Lok Sabha now with Telangana (17), Andhra Pradesh (25), Kerala (20), Tamil Nadu (39) and Karnataka (28) making up the southern representation in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Having performed better on human development indices, the southern states have managed to check population growth, achieving close to the desirable replacement rate. In comparison to the more populous northern states, the South may stand to lose a maximum of 15 to 20 seats in the Lok Sabha after delimitation, while the northern states may gain disproportionately.

There was no stopping the prime minister, though. “Southern states will stand to lose heavily if the Congress’ new idea of rights in proportion to population is implemented… South India stands to lose 100 Lok Sabha seats… Will South India accept this? Will South India forgive the Congress?” he thundered, and asked the INDIA bloc to clarify if it was "against South India".

BJP national executive member Khushbu Sundar, speaking at Dakshin Dialogue in Bengaluru sponsored by the South First news portal on Saturday 7 October, however, hinted that the Union government and PM are not in favour of delimitation on the basis of population alone, and expressed the conviction that performing states in the South would not be "punished".

Congress working committee member and MP Shashi Tharoor, delivering the keynote address at the event, said the BJP government at the Centre had already mistreated the South by directing the Finance Commission to use the 2011 census figures instead of the 1971 figures. The 16th Finance Commission is likely to worsen the North-South divide, he added, asserting that the South was already subsidising the North.

“For every rupee of tax contributed by Uttar Pradesh, the state receives Rs 1.79, but for every Re 1 contributed by Karnataka, it receives only Re 0.47,” said Tharoor. “Karnataka meets 72 per cent of its expenses from the state’s taxes. Bihar, however, gets 77 per cent of its state expenses from the Central budget,” he pointed out.

Many of the speakers at the event pointed out that the Union government is in the habit of springing nasty surprises and might come up with a last-minute surprise without consulting the southern states, suggesting the government take the southern states into confidence, and call for wider public consultations.

Also speaking at Dakshin Dialogue, Karnataka Planning Board VC Prof Rajeev Gowda suggested the Rajya Sabha be modelled on the concept of the US Senate, with equal representation from the states. While the Lok Sabha could continue to represent population trends, in order to offset the injustice to the South, a Rajya Sabha with financial powers and possibly with more representation from the South should be in place, he felt.

He, however, said one should be wary of the purpose of the delimitation exercise as it might cause political marginalisation of the South, and recalled growing up with the notion that no South Indian could become prime minister, though PV Narasimha Rao and HD Deve Gowda later occupied the high office. Gowda added that the danger of political power being concentrated in the hands of the North was very much alive now.

“The last delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir and Assam seemed to have a political agenda to marginalise minorities. This is not the way to go about delimitation,” he said.

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