Table of Contents
THE CONTEXT: There are far too few parliamentarians or assembly members responsible for citizen welfare in India. This limited representation in a democratic setup indicates India’s flawed representative system.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER COUNTRIES
- India had around 4,126 Members of the Legislative Assembly, 543 Lok Sabha MPs and 245 Rajya Sabha MPs. However, India has innumerable grassroots politicians, 1,000-plus municipal councils/corporations with between 50 to 100 wards and approximately 2,38,000 panchayats.
- An Indian Member of Parliament (MP) is said to represent 2.5 million citizens on average. A U.S. House of Representatives member typically represents approximately 7,00,000 citizens.
- In Pakistan, a member of the National Assembly is a representative of approximately 6,00,000 citizens, while the ratio in Bangladesh is closer to approximately 5,00,000 citizens.
- Unlike India, the United States has a political system that seeks to engender malapportionment, with each State given two senators in the U.S. Senate. This is easier in a homogeneous country with a bi-party political system, where the same parties compete across all States.
- In India, with its heterogeneous political system across States, malapportionment can mean empowering select political outfits over others.
- Law making: Legislatures play a vital role in raising debates and discussions on various aspects of governance and in exacting accountability from the government. However, due to inadequate representation there are issue in order to raise critical issues and in the process of law-making.
- Reduced working hours of Parliament: Limited representation often leads to reduction in working hours of Parliament. This leads to passing of bills without any scrutiny.
- Hindrance to Representative Democracy: Parliamentary discussion is a manifestation of a representative kind of democracy but inadequate representation leads to limited parliamentary discussion. This in turn hinders the representative democracy.
- Lack of Accountability: Lack of productivity in the Parliament hinders the process of holding members of parliament accountable for their actions. This undermines the democratic principle of checks and balances without sufficient oversight.
- Skewedness towards few states: Our political system faces issue of malapportionment, with legislative weight being skewed towards the citizens of select States.
THE WAY FORWARD
- Proper Delimitation: Delimitation could be a potential solution to restore proportionality however it should be utilised properly. Delimitation could engender a bias towards a Hindi-speaking northern population while enabling select national parties to rise to power. However, delimitation should not be driven only by factors based on population. Geographical determinism, economic productivity, linguistic history, and a sense of fairness should also play a part. The number of seats in the Parliament needs to increase significantly to help enhance democratic representation ratios.
- Promoting federalism: Our electoral system must be reformed by promoting federalism and the states must be given a better voice and a platform to represent their interests.
- Reform in Rajya Sabha: Constitutional reform can be pursued to give each state the same number of Rajya Sabha MPs. At the same time, direct elections for Rajya Sabha MPs should be promoted while ensuring that a domicile requirement is added and stringently adhered to.
- Reforms in Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections: There is need for proportional representation especially for the Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections. As, India’s first-past-the-post system may ensure quicker election results. But still, it does ensure that a legislator often represents a constituency without a majority of votes.
- Increase number of states: The largest State with highest resident population in the United States, California, has a population of just 39 million, with the average State having a population of about five to six million. Around 22 Indian States/Union Territories have a population higher than that. A New State Reorganisation Commission may be set up after the next election to evaluate the socio-economic and administrative viability of select to-be States to enhance administrative efficiency and democratic accountability.
There is a need to strengthen the representative parliamentary democracy by promoting a culture of constructive dialogue and debate within Parliament. This requires ensuring that adequate number of seats are provided to parliamentarians in a timely and transparent manner.
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTION
Q. To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? (250 words)
MAINS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
Q. Legislative representation is fundamental to political empowerment which enables participation in the law-making process. Comment.Spread the Word