Politics of Electoral Reform: Delimitation Deadlock in India

Politics of Electoral Reform: Delimitation Deadlock in India
Electoral processes bear the responsibility of creating the foundation of a
functional democracy. However, leaving the legal framework of such
processes under the domain of normal legislation may generate
aberrations due to partisan political interests. This Article discusses one
such case regarding delimitation of constituencies in India. Section 2
analyses the relationship between partisan politics and the process of
electoral reform in the theoretical background of rational choice theory a s
contrasted with Pippa Norris’ policy cycle model. Section 3 focuses on
the issue of delimitation and traces the political developments in this
regard to analyse the current legal framework, whi lst Section 4 evaluates
the rationale given by the legislature for the current aberrations in
delimitation in India. Section 5 involves quantitative analyses of the
implications of the current constitutional deadlock regarding
delimitation on the Indian democracy. Finally, concluding observations
have been made, suggesting resolution of the issue through revitalisation
of Norris’ constraining elements in the political process. An active
involvement of the voters in amending the issue by creating awareness
regarding its effects has been suggested.
In politics, when principle collides with self-interest, principle tends
to retreat with a bloody nose.
Peter Kellner1
Electoral laws play a vital role in moulding the political framework of a
democracy.2 However, considering their close proximity to political actors who
* Aditi is currently studying her LL.M. at SOAS, University of London. She graduated with a
B.A. LL.B. (Hons) degree from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata in 2009.
The Auth or would like to thank Prof. Alexander Fisc her for his valu able ins ight and guidanc e.
1 Peter Kellner, ‘El ectora l reform: Princ iple or self- interest?’ (1995) 33(2) Representation 23.
2 DW Rae, V Hanby and J Loosemore, ‘Thresholds of Representation and Thresholds of
Exclusion: An Analytic Note on Electoral Systems’ (1971) 3 Comparative Political Studies 479.
(2015) Vol. 2, Issue 2 Aditi 47
form the direct target group of their influence, these laws are not only the
causal elements in a political system, but also a consequence of it.3 Hence, in
some instances, political influence in the legislative process supersedes the
underlying principle and produces results which might be beneficial to certain
political actors, but not in the genera l democratic interest. This has been aptly
illustrated by the process of delimitation of constituencies between states in
India, or, more accurately, by the lack thereof.
A key element of democracy is to ensure an equality of the voting share of all
the electors, ensured by proportional allocation of seats to a house of people
through the process of delimitation. However, in India, owing to a
constitutional freeze on delimitation since 1971, there is an increasing gap in
representation between various states, which cannot be rectified at least until
the year 2031 after the 91st Constitutional Amendment. This Article attempts to
study the political linkages in the enforcement and continuance of this
constitutional freeze. It will also examine the interplay between political self -
interest and electoral reforms.
The second Section analyses the elements of electoral change in the Indian
context and the crucial role partisan politics play in this regard. In doing so, a
comparison has been drawn between the rational choice theories of electoral
change, in particula r Beno it’s seat-maximizing model4 as well as constraining
elements from Norris’ policy cycle model.5
The third Section of the Article traces the process of delimitation after
independence and studies legal developments in this regard in their respective
political contexts, thus bringing to surface the political linkages at issue. The
legal puzzle plaguing the process of delimitation in India is introduced and
analysed in context of the theoretical framework. Due to the constraints of
scope, delimitation here refers to the proportional apportionment of seats
between states according to the population, as this is the dimension that has
been most contested and most affected by the constitutional freeze.6
3 Kenneth Benoit, ‘Electoral Laws as Political Consequences: Explaining the Origins and Change
of Elec toral Ins titutions (2007) 10 Annual Review of Political Science 363.
4 Kenneth Benoit, ‘Models of electoral system change(2004) 23(3) Electoral Studies.
5 Pippa Norris, Cultural Explanations of Electoral Reform: A Policy Cycle Model (2010) John F
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University Working Paper RWP 10-022
ndle/1/4449095> accessed 5 August 2015.
6 Alistair McMillan, ‘Delimitation, Democracy, and End of Constitutional Freeze’ (2000)
Economic and Political Weekly 1271.

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