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586YogendraYadav,Theparadoxofpoliticalrepresentation

The paradox of political representation

Y O G E N D R A

Y A D A V

of political representation Y O G E N D R A Y A D A V

POLITICALrepresentationfacesaparadoxincontemporaryIndia. Ontheonehand,thepracticeofrepresentativedemocracyforover halfacenturyhasledtoawideningofthepoolfromwhichpolitical representatives are recruited, accompanied by a reduction in the mismatchbetweenthesocialprofileoftherepresentativesandthose whoarerepresented.Thisdeepeningofrepresentativedemocracy coexists,ontheotherhand,withathinningoftheveryideaof representation.

The institutional designs for filtering claims to representation, devicesforpopularcontroloverelectedrepresentatives,andthe mechanisms for linking the policy agenda of representative institutionswiththeneedsanddesiresoftherepresentedhavenot keptpacewithdemocraticupsurgefrombelow.Progresson‘Who istherepresentative?’isaccompaniedbyastepbackin‘Whatdoes therepresentativedo?’Afocusonthesetwoquestionstakesour attention away from ‘What gets represented?’, the foundational concernofpoliticalrepresentation.

Theintensityoftheparadoxismatchedbyourcollectiveinability tolooksimultaneouslyatbothsidesthatconstitutethisparadox, resulting in an avoidable divide in our public responses to the quality of Indian democracy. 1 One set of observers note, quite accurately,thebroadeningofthebaseofpoliticalrepresentatives, thankstotheinaugurationoftheconstitutionallyprotectedthirdtier ofdemocracy. 2 Oneneednotrelyuponthemovingbutepisodic tales of the revolutionary dalit mahila sarpanch to register the staggeringexpansioninthenumberofpoliticalrepresentatives–

fromabout4000MPsandMLAsinthecountrytowellover30

lakhelectedrepresentativesinpanchayatandnagarpalikabodies.

Clearly,anexpansionofthisordercannotbutchangethesocial

profileoftheelectedrepresentatives,bringingitclosertothesocial

profileoftheelectors.

Thisexpansioncoincideswithandreinforcesanoticeableshiftin thesocialprofileoftheelectedrepresentativesintheuppertiersas well. 3 ThestrangleholdoftheHinduuppercasteelite,wellversed inthelanguageandprotocolsofmoderndemocracy,hasloosened toyieldsomespacetotheelitefromthenon­dwijaandoftennon­ dominant ‘backward’ communities, especially in the Hindi heartland.Thishascontributedtotheconfidenceofthepolitical

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586YogendraYadav,Theparadoxofpoliticalrepresentation

leadersfromlowersocialorderandtheirchancesofclaimingsome of the highest positions in our representative democracy. The spectacularandjustlycelebratedriseofleaderslikeMayawatior Lalu Prasad Yadav becomes the public face of this social transformation. 4 On a narrow reading, divorced from issues of substantive agenda and policy consequences, this transformation appearsasnothingshortofasocialrevolutionthroughtheballot. 5

Another set of observers of Indian democracy focus, quite appropriately,ifnarrowly,ontherepresentation,orratherthelack ofit,ofpopularissuesandconcernsin the political and policy agenda.Itdoesnottakemuchtoregisterthe‘distance’ofpolitical representatives from those they seek to represent, resulting in a routinesenseofpopularfrustration.Thisfrustrationgetsreflected inthevolublecomplaintsaboutpoliticalcorruptionandthevery high attrition rate, arguably one of the highest in democratic systems,oftheincumbentMPsandMLAsintheLokSabhaand assembly elections. 6 Ordinary citizens feel that they are at the mercyofpoliticalleaders,unableastheyoftenaretocontact,let alonecontrol,theirelectedpoliticalrepresentatives.

Iftheexerciseoflegislativeandexecutivepowerforredistribution ofresourcesinkeepingwiththeprioritiesofthecitizensisone measure of the working of the representational mechanism, the recordofIndiandemocracywouldappearprettydismal.Thelackof connectbetweenpublicopinionontheroleofthestateinmatters economicandthepoliciesofeconomic‘liberalization’followedby successiveregimesisagoodexampleofthisdemocraticdeficit. 7

Theriseofpoliticalleadersfromlowersocialorderinrecenttimes hasrarelybeenaccompaniedbyanysubstantialpolicymeasuresor useofgovernmentalpowerforthebenefitofthelowersocialorder.

Moreoftenthannot,asinBiharandUttarPradeshinthe1990s,a

steepriseinthepoliticalrepresentationofthe‘backward’casteshas beencharacterized by a period of governmental mess and non­ performance.Nowonder,thisperspectivedrawsattentiontothe severe deficits of representation. Add to this some ideological purismandanuppercastevantagepoint,andthedeficitappearsas nothingshortofafailureoracrisisofrepresentativedemocracy. 8

Thisparadoxplaysoutdifferentlyinthedifferentdomainsofthe democraticarena.Themostcommonformittakesisthatofan encounterbetweenadynamicpoliticalprocessandaninflexible institutionalresponse.Thesimultaneousriseanddeclineofthestate astheeffectiveunitofpoliticalrepresentationinnationalpolitics serves as a good illustration of this type of encounter. With

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competitivepoliticstakingadecisive‘regional’turn,thestatehas become the effective level of political choice in a Lok Sabha election.

Inthe1970sand1980s,votersinthestateassemblyelectionsvoted

asiftheywerechoosingtheirprimeminister;sincethe1990sthey

vote in Lok Sabha elections as if they are choosing their chief minister.Thisshiftinfavourofthestateinthelowerhousehas been accompanied by a serious and substantial dilution of state representationintheupperhouseoftheParliament.Aspolitical partiesfreelyshufflenominationstotheRajyaSabhawithlittle regard to domicile and little fear of loss of credibility, the constitutional design of the upper chamber as representing the interests of the states stands subverted. The Supreme Court’s decision 9 upholdingthelegaldilutionofresidentialrequirementin RajyaSabhawasinthisrespectafatalsetback.

Thisparadoxicaldevelopmenthasproducedaconsequencethatno onedesignedoranticipated:astheLokSabha,ratherthantheRajya Sabha,becomestheprincipalarenafortherepresentationofstates, theonusofmaintainingfederalbalancehasalsoshiftedtotheLok Sabha.Thishasservedtolegitimiseanill­conceivedfreezeinthe LokSabhaonthenumberofseatsforeachstatewhichviolatesthe basic principle of one­person­one­vote, besides working to the disadvantage of some of the already disadvantaged units of the IndianUnion.

A similar encounter between the political process and the institutionalframecanbeseenatthethirdtierofdemocracy.The

passageofthe73rdand74thAmendmentstotheConstitutionand

theextensionofconstitutionallysecuredrepresentativepoliticsto thethirdtier,perhapsinafitoflegislativeabsent­mindedness,set into motion a political process that appears to be gaining momentum. But the political establishment, with honourable exceptionslikethecurrentMinisterofPanchayatiRajattheCentre, appearsdeterminednottograntanyrealpowersorresourcestothe newtierofpoliticalrepresentation.

Insteadofredistributingresourcesandredirectingdevelopmental

policiesatthelocallevel,theprincipalfunctionthatthethirdtier

nowperformsistosupplycadreandlowerlevelfunctionariesto

politicalpartiesindesperateneedofanorganization.Oftenitis

muchworse:thepoliticalenergyreleasedbythisprocessleadsto

anintense,violentbutvacuousquestforlocalpoliticaldominance.

The second form that the paradox of participation takes is the

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simultaneousadvanceandretreatinthepoliticalrepresentationof thelowersocialorder.Itseemsasthoughdemocratsinourcountry are happy to live with gross violations of even the elementary principles of representation, while being strident and self­ congratulatory about some relatively minor issues. There is no doubt that the post­Mandal era in our polity has led to some improvement in the presence of landowning or otherwise numericallylargeOBCcommunitiesintheHindiheartlandstates. Even though the quantum of change is much smaller than is popularlybelievedandthelegislaturescontinuetomassivelyover­ representtheforwardcastes,thereisaqualitativechangeinthe political dynamics as the momentum has shifted away from the hithertodominantcommunities.

Yetthisadvancementcomeswithbuilt­instagnationandretreat. Theriseinpoliticalrepresentationofsomebackwardcommunities hasnotledtoacorrespondingriseintherepresentationofmany othercommunitiesthatwouldbeapartofthe‘lowersocialorder’. Thereislittleawarenessaboutorwillingnesstoengagewiththe severe under­representation of the ‘lower’ OBCs or the most backwardcastescuttingacrosstheNorth­Southdivide.

Similarly there is little attention to an equally severe under­ representationofthe‘mahadalits’, 10 thedalitcommunitiesatthe bottomoftheScheduledCastes.TheSacharCommitteereporthas servedtobringsomeattentiontothegrossunder­representationof theMuslimsintheParliamentandstateassemblies, 11 buttheissue isyettoacquirenationalsaliencenecessaryforanyremedialaction. Theriseofcaste­basedpartieshastriggeredapoliticalaspiration among many of these under­represented communities, but this aspirationhitsanintellectualandpoliticaldeadendsincethereis neitheradesignnorthewilltopushforbetterrepresentationfor them.

There is little improvement in the political representation of marginalisedsocialgroupslikewomenandthepoorthatdonot possess a self­conscious political identity. The Women’s Reservations Bill has brought some attention to the fact that women’spresenceinlegislatureshasactuallywitnessedamarginal declinesinceindependence. 12 There is no such data to track the presence of the ‘poor’ in our legislatures. But if the episodic analysisofthedisclosuresofpropertyfiledbycandidatesatthe timeoftheirnominationsisanythingtogoby,ourlegislaturesare dominatedbythesuper­rich. 13

Thisishardlysurprising,sincetheminimumresourcesrequiredto

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seriouslycontestanelectionhavekeptescalating,mostpolitical

partieslackorganizationalnormsforselectionofcandidatesand

thereislittleflowof‘whitemoney’intopoliticalparties.Letalone

thepoor,anyonewhodoesnothaveaccesstovast,unaccountable

anddisposablewealthhaslittlechanceofgettinga‘ticket’withthe

partialexceptionoftheCommunistparties.Noseriousinstitutional

deviceshavebeenevolvedtohelpthehave­notsfromregistering

theirpresenceinrepresentativebodies.

Proposalsofoneformoranotherforstatefundingofelectionshave beenlyingbeforeParliamentforthelasttwodecadesbutacartelof big parties and rich politicians has ensured a silence on this question. 14 Ifanything,institutionalinterventionhasworkedtothe contrary.Justasthepoliticsintherapidlyexpandingurbancentres begins to be organized along class divisions, there come up institutionaldevices,includingthelatestdelimitation,tokeepthe urbanpoorunder­enfranchised.

The third, the most invisible and perhaps the most debilitating form of the paradox of representation is that the discussion on qualityofrepresentationisbeingreducedtothesocialidentityof the representative precisely at a time when the political representativeisincreasinglymarginaltothemostvitaldecisions concerning legislation and governance. First, the passage of the anti­defectionlawinitssecondincarnationhasleftlittlediscretion withanMPoranMLAwhodoesnotwishtorisklosingherorhis seat.Hence,muchofthederivativeexpectationonthemandateand roleofanindividuallegislatorisnowredundantinourcontext.As farasthealreadydiminishingbusinessoflegislationisconcerned, therecanonlybeoneanswertotheclassicalquestionofwhomthe elected representatives represent: they cannot but represent their politicalparty.

Themoreimportantquestionthusis:Whodothepartiesrepresent? This is related to the second development, namely the rise of political families or the party supremo with a coterie, which complicatesmuch of the routine discussion about the nature of political representation. True the political families come from a morediversesocialbackgroundthanbefore:itwasearlierdifficult toimaginenon­dwijafamilieslikethoseoftheGowdas,Marans, Badals,ChautalasorMulayamSinghYadavswieldingthekindof politicalclouttheydotoday.Butitwouldbefaciletoassumethat thesefamiliesrepresenttheinterestofthecommunitiestheycome from.Theruleofpoliticalfamiliesorthesupremofromagrarian communitieshasprovedtobemoreconduciveforthecaptureof statepowerbyorganizedindustrialandbusinessintereststhanwas thecasebefore.

Third, the issue of political representation itself is declining in

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salienceduetoashiftinthelocusofdecision­makingfromthe legislatureandexecutivetoindependentbodiesandthejudiciary. Simultaneously, the media has emerged as the key and not­so­ neutralmediatorinhowanypoliticalissueisrepresentedtothe public and thus sets limits to the political agenda. It is no coincidencethatthejudiciaryandthemediahaveremainedmostly untouchedevenbythelimitedpresenceofthelowersocialorder 15 as in the legislatures and thus immune to the pressures of the democraticupsurge.

The latest delimitation of the Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies needs to be viewed in the light of this larger understanding of the paradox of representation in contemporary India. 16 It suggests that we should judge the latest delimitation exercise mainly on whether it deepens democracy rather than assessingitonpurelyproceduralgroundsorwithreferencetosome abstractprinciplesofdelimitation.Ifthisargumentisofvalue,the questionstoaskare:Hasthelatestdelimitationkeptpacewiththe democraticupsurgeofourtimes?Doesitcontributetothecapacity ofourinstitutionalmechanismtorespondtothepoliticaldynamism unleashedbytheriseofthe‘lowerordersofsociety’?Doesitallow abetterconnectbetweentherepresented,therepresentativesand therepresentations?Inthatsense,anassessmentofthedelimitation exercisemustnotbeconfinedtoacriticismofthefinalorderofthe DelimitationCommission.Suchanassessmentcannotbutimplicate theParliament,theDelimitationCommissionandentirepolitical establishmentthatparticipatedinthisexercise.

Itisimportanttosortoutthecriteriaofassessment,foragigantic andincrediblycomplexexerciselikethisoneisboundtoinvite comment, criticism and controversy. The final order of the Delimitation Commission has been debated in the media, the politicalcirclesandtheParliamentitselfandsubjectedtosevere criticisminvariousfora,includingthisissueofSeminar,onvarious grounds: the composition of the Delimitation Commission, its procedures, guidelines and of course its substantial orders with regardtothewaytheboundarieshavebeendrawnandfinally,the reservation of seats. The degree and the tone of the criticism suggeststhatthisdelimitationorderhasdrawnsharperreactions thanitspredecessors.IfthediscussionintheLokSabha(excerpts reproducedinthisissue)isanythingtogoby,thepoliticalclasshas certainlybeenlessthanwarmtothisroundoffixingtheboundaries.

Yet it may be too rash to conclude from the reception of the

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commission’sorderthatthelatestdelimitationisnotasgoodasits predecessors. Institutions like the Delimitation Commission performathanklessjobinanydemocracy.Ifitdoesitsjobwell,it wouldhavehelpedthosewhoaresilentandmostlyunawareofsuch anorder;atthesametimeitwouldhavehurtsomeofthemost powerfulpersonsinpubliclifeandinvitedcriticismwhichitcannot respondto.Therefore,oneneedstobeextra­cautiousinfinding fault with what the commission has decided. Besides, if the receptiontodayismorecritical,itcouldwellbeafunctionofthe greateropennessofpublicdebateandtheincreasedcloutofthe mediacomparedtothetimeswhenthelastdelimitationtookplace threedecadesago.

Itisalsonecessarytoplaceourassessmentinalargercomparative frameoftheexperienceofdrawingpoliticalboundariesinother countries. 17 Thedelimitationexerciseacquiresaspecialsignificance incountrieslikeoursthatfollowthefirst­past­the­postsystemwith single member district, for it has the potential of affecting the overallpoliticaloutcomeofelections.Therearemanycountries, includingtheUS,wherefixingtheboundariesisablatantlypartisan actofpoliticalfixingsoastobenefitoneparty.

InthiscontextwemustnotethattheDelimitationCommissionhas continuedwiththetraditionofnon­partisanshipthathasmarkedthe boundarydrawingexerciseinourcountry.Whileithasnotescaped criticismonspecificcountsforordersthatonthefaceofitappear lessthanfair,therehasbeennosuggestionfromanyquarterthatthe entireexercisewasorchestratedtofavouranypoliticalparty.This indicatesahealthydegreeofinstitutionalizationofthedelimitation process and underlines the wisdom of the makers of our Constitutioninprovidingforamechanismfordelimitationinthe foundingdocument.

Whilethedelimitationshowsthevirtuesofnon­partisanship,italso driveshomewhynon­partisanshipisnottheonly,oreventhemost salient, virtue of political design. Besides being non­partisan, a politicaldesignmustalsobeintelligentinthesenseofanticipating thelongtermpoliticalconsequencesofthatdesignandincreatinga structure of incentives and disincentives to achieve the desired objects.Judgedagainstthissomewhatdemandingexpectation,the latestdelimitationexerciseisdifficulttobeproudof.

Itishardtoavoidtheconclusionthatthisfirstmapping of the

politicalgeographyofthecountryinthe21stcenturydidnotface

uptosomeofthekeychallengesofthedemographicandpolitical transition in our republic. The country has missed a major opportunity to align the political map to the emerging political realityofourdemocracy.Thankstoanextraordinarydecisionby thepoliticalclasstopostponethenextdelimitationforanotherthree

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decades–Indiaisperhapstheonlycountryintheworldtohave such a long gap between boundary drawing exercises – the infirmitiesofthecurrentdelimitationhavebeenwoveninto the textureofrepresentationforthenextgeneration.

Sincethecommissionhasnot,atleastsofar,releasedanynarrative reportoutliningtherationalebehinditsorder,itisnoteasytoinfer the larger understanding that informed it. But the information availableinthepublicdomain–pressreports,accountsofsome associate members and the parliamentary debates – gives an impressionofanexercisethatkeptasafedistancefromtheburden ofalargerunderstandingofdemocratictransformationontheone handandthenitty­grittyoftechnicalexpertiseonelectoralsystem designontheother.Itishardtodetectanyoverallperspectivein this case­by­case approach. This approach marks most of the attemptsatpoliticaldesigninginourcountry.

Thefirstbigopportunitymissedwastoreapportiontheshareof seatsfordifferentstatesinkeepingwiththeircurrentshareofthe country’spopulation. 18 Theblameforthismustbelaidatthedoors oftheParliament.TheParliamenttiedthehandsofthiscommission with a constitutional amendment that froze the number of Lok Sabhaseatsforeachstateaspertheirshareinpopulationinthe

1971Census.Thiswasanunusualextensionofanextraordinary

amendment that flouts the basic constitutional and democratic principleofoneperson,onevote,onevalue.

WhentheamendmentwasfirstpassedduringtheEmergency,the rationaleofferedwasthatafreezeinparliamentaryseatswouldnot disincentivisethestatesthatsoughttocontrolpopulationgrowth. Whilethelatestextensiondidnotrepeatthisfunnyreasoning,ithas notcaredtoprovideafreshone.Clearly,whatappearsawhimsical decisionhasovertimecongealedintoanunstatedfederalcontract between the North and the South. It remains to be seen if this amendmentwouldstandjudicialscrutiny.Ithasalreadypassedthe testofpoliticalconsensus,thankstotheadventofcoalitionpolitics attheCentre.

The consequences of the freeze have been summarised in the accompanying table. Clearly the bigger gainer in this political bargainisTamilNadu,whoseshareintheLokSabhawouldhave

comedownfromthecurrentkittyof39tojust32iftheseatswere

reapportioned as per the population share in 2001. Conversely, UttarPradeshwouldhavegainedsevenseats.Thebiggainersare loadedintheSouth:TamilNadu,Kerala,AndhraPradesh.Thebig losersarefromtheHindiheartland:UttarPradesh,Rajasthan,Bihar

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andMadhyaPradesh,besidesMaharashtra.

We do not have robust population estimates to do the same calculation for 2031 which would be the basis for the next delimitation. But we are clearly looking at a loss and gain of

upwardsof50LokSabhaseatsbythattime.Thelongerthefreeze

persists,themoredrasticanddifficultanydefreezewouldbecome.

Itseemsthatunlessthereisajudicialinterventionwemayhaveto

livewithunequalvalueofthevotescastbythecitizensindifferent

partsofthecountry.

WhiletherewasatleastsomelogictofreezingthenumberofLok Sabha seats, the Parliament’s decision to freeze the number of assemblyseatswassimplybeyondanyreason.Sowearefatedto persist with an anomalous situation of Uttar Pradesh with five assemblysegmentsineachLokSabhaconstituencycomparedtosix inBiharandMaharashtraandseveninAPandWestBengal.Thisis notaformalpoint.Anincreaseinthesizeoftheassemblywould havereducedthenumberofvotersthateachMLAisexpectedto representandthushelpedgreaterpoliticalaccountabilityandbetter connectbetweentheelectorsandtheirelectedrepresentative.

ApportionmentofseatsintheLokSabha

 

Over­andUnder­representationofStatesUsingthe2001Census

 

Figures

 
 

Seats

Proportional

Over­and

current

seatsusing2001

Under­

Census

representation

population

AllIndia

524

524

AndhraPradesh

42

39

3

Assam

14

14

0

Bihar

40

43

­3

Chhattisgarh

11

11

0

Gujarat

26

26

0

Haryana

10

11

­1

HimachalPradesh

4

3

1

JammuandKashmir

6

5

1

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586YogendraYadav,Theparadoxofpoliticalrepresentation

Jharkhand

14

14

0

Karnataka

28

27

1

Kerala

20

17

3

MadhyaPradesh

29

31

­2

Maharashtra

48

50

­2

Orissa

21

19

2

Punjab

13

13

0

Rajasthan

25

29

­4

TamilNadu

39

32

7

UttarPradesh

80

87

­7

Uttaranchal

5

4

1

WestBengal

42

42

0

Delhi

7

7

0

Source:AlistairMcMillan,Seminar506,October2001.

 

Thesecondmajoropportunitymissedwastoaddressthelongterm questionofunder­enfranchisementoftheurbanvoter,especiallythe urban poor. Our system seems to have learnt little from the disastrousexperienceofthepreviousfreezeindelimitationwhich resultedinmonstrousconstituencieslikethatofEastDelhiwithan

electorateofover30lakh.Twostepswererequiredtoavoidthe

repetition of this experience. One, the time lag between two delimitations had to be reduced so as to allow for revision accordingtothelatestpopulationfigures.Thebestsolutionwould havebeentogobacktotheoriginalconstitutionalmandateofa freshdelimitationaftereverydecennialcensus.

Two, for the intervening period reliable population projections could be used. Countries like Australia use the population projectionmethodforthispurpose.Oursituationofrapidmigration tourbanareasdemandedthatwetakeboththesesteps;eventually noneoftheremedieswereacceptedorperhapsevenconsidered. WecanbefairlysurethattheexperienceofEastDelhiwillbe replicated in Gurgaon, NOIDA, Faridabad and dozens of other peripheriesofurbancentresalloverthecountry,leadingtoasevere under­enfranchisement of the urban poor halfway through the periodofthecurrentdelimitation.

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Thethirdmajoropportunitymissedinthecurrentexercisewasto begintothinkaboutaddressingtheunder­representationofsome communities. This is not an easy question to tackle. It is an established principle of delimitation that the boundaries should coincidewithcommunitiesofinterestasmuchas possible. The troubleofcourseisthat‘communitiesofinterest’canbedefinedin a variety of ways: geographically­defined communities or communitiesthatshareacommonrace,ethnicortribalbackground, orthesamereligionorlanguage.Itisalsowell­knownthatonce drawn,boundariestendtoperpetuatetheidentitythatinthefirst placeinformedtheboundaries.

Whileeverypoliticalactortalksaboutthesepoliticalcommunities allthetime,wetendtomaintainanofficialsilencewhenitcomes toformalpoliticaldesigns.TheSacharCommitteereportidentified delimitationasakeytoMuslimpoliticalrepresentation.Whilethe committee may or may not be right in suggesting that the delimitation is a possible cause for the under­representation of Muslims, this was a valid cue for thinking of delimitation as a possiblesolution.

There are various ways in which the existence of social communities may be taken into account while drawing the boundaries.Wedonot need to follow the American method of carving black majority constituencies. It is well­known that the politicalboundariesinthenortheasternhillstatesmostlyrespectthe boundariesofethnicity.Insteadoftakingonthiscomplexquestion and begin thinking of a way out, the Parliament and the DelimitationCommissionchosetopostponethisdiscussionbyat leastaquarterofacentury.

The fourth and perhaps the biggest opportunity missed, in this instancebytheDelimitationCommission,wasitsrefusaltoalign themapofthefirstandthesecondtierofdemocracytothethird tier.Wehavearidiculoussituationoftwounconnectedpolitical mapsfortheentirecountry–onefor Lok Sabha and assembly elections and another for panchayat and municipal elections. Accordingly, we also have two parallel electoral rolls. This situation was unavoidable immediately after the 73rd and 74th Amendmentastheearlierdelimitationcouldnothaveprovidedfor this.

Nowthatwehavethethirdtier,oneoftheprincipalchallengesof therecentdelimitationwastoconnectthetwomaps,justasthe assemblyandtheLokSabhaconstituencymapsareintegrated.It requiredtheDelimitationCommissiontodefinetheboundaryof each assembly segment in terms of a group of panchayats or municipalitywards.Thisisamatteroflongtermsignificancefor

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politicalrepresentation,foritwouldhaveensuredthatpanchayati raj functionaries could have a meaningful relationship to their MLAs.Thatcouldinturncreatepoliticalincentivesforpushing decentralizationofpoliticalpower.

Therearegoodreasonstobelievethatthecommissionwasaware ofthischallenge.Yetitisintriguingtoseethatthefinalorderofthe DelimitationCommissionhaspersistedwiththearchaicpracticeof definingtheassemblyconstituencyintermsofrevenuecircleinone state,mandalaortehsilinanother,andpanchayatinyetanotherset ofstates.Itishardtobelievethatthecommissionfounditdifficult tomustertheadministrativesupportorthetechnicalexpertiseto match the two set of boundaries. Clearly, the Delimitation Commissioneitherfoundthisquestiontootrivialortoomessyor allowed petty bureaucratic turf­wars to trump the larger requirementsofdemocracy.AfuturehistorianofIndiandemocracy mightfindthisdecisionofthefirstDelimitationCommissionafter

the73rdand74thAmendmentmostinexplicableanddisappointing.

Aswecometotermsandlearntolivewiththenewdelimitation, thereisadangerthattheinfirmitiesofthenewdesignmightkickoff ablame­game.Wegetaglimpseofthatinthemannerinwhichthe newdelimitationorderwasdiscussedintheLokSabha,withmore thanonememberwantingtoblametheDelimitationCommission for some of the provisions which flow straight from the DelimitationActpassedbytheParliament.Thecommissionmaybe pushedintoadefensivemode,tryingtopassonmorethanthedue shareofproblemstotheParliament,theexecutiveandfunctionaries liketheRegistrarGeneralofCensus.Wearelikelytolosesightof thebigpictureinthisblamegame.

Ifthereadingsuggestedinthisessayhasanymerit,someofthe mostseriousflawsintherecentdelimitationexerciseflownotfrom the position that some of the key functionaries sitting in the DelimitationCommissionortheLawMinistryortheParliament happen to have taken, but from a paradigm that has come to dominateourthinkingaboutdesigningandreformingpoliticsin general and representation in particular. This is as true of the Delimitation Commission as it is of the Law Commission, the ElectionCommissionofIndiaorof‘civilsociety’initiativesfor democratic reform for that matter. These flaws affect the delimitationexerciseasmuchastheyaffecttheunendingdebates aboutpoliticalreservationforwomen.Inconclusion,therefore,it maybemoreappropriatetoreflectonsomeoftheinadequacies builtintothisparadigmofthinkingaboutrepresentation. 19

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First,muchoftheexistingthinkingismarkedbyreductionism,bya reductionoftheissueofrepresentationtothesocialattributesofthe representatives. This understanding begins by identifying representationasoneofthekeyaspectsofdemocraticpracticeforit concerns the political agenda which shapes the outcome of democracy.Representationofissuesobviouslyrequiresanagency. Hence,thefocusshiftsfromrepresentationtorepresentatives,tothe exclusionofotherinstitutionsandforcesthatarenolessdecisivein theselectionoftheissuesthatgetrepresented.

Thenextstepinthisreductionistolinktherepresentativetothe electors,forwhattheelectedrepresentativesdoislinkedtothe controlexercisedbytheelectors.Thisleadstoasuggestionthatthe linkbetweentheelectorsandtheelectedisoneofresemblance,that therepresentativemustmirrorthesocialattributesofthepopulation they seek to represent. From this it is a short step to the final reduction of social attributes into caste or community of the representative.

Anon­reductionistapproachtorepresentationcannotandmustnot overlookthecasteorcommunityprofileoftherepresentatives.One cannotsimplyunderstand,forexample,thewaytheLeftFrontin WestBengalhasdraggeditsfeetontheidentificationoftheOBCs andextensionofanybenefitstothem,unlessonecarestodigand arriveatthefiguresofthedisproportionatepresenceofthetopthree uppercastesamongtheMLAsandtheministersoftheLeftFront. A non­reductionist approach would require that the chain that connectstherepresentativestotheelectorsbeestablishedineach case rather than assumed and that other institutions and causal factorsbetakenintoaccount.

Second, the existing approach to representation is marked by a near­completeinattentiontothespecificitiesofthemechanismsand devicesthatframerepresentation.Thereisasubstantialliteraturein thedisciplineofpoliticalscience,hiddenfrompoliticalscientists andpoliticalcommentatorsinIndia,onthepoliticalconsequences of electoral and political rules and institutions including comparative analyses of delimitation exercise in several democracies. Much of the Indian discussion about political institutions,lawsandreformstendstodismisstheexactquestionof framingasifitwereaninconsequentialmatter,asmalldetailthat cansortitselfoutandwhichisbestlefttosometechnicians.Many oftheproposalsforpoliticalreformoperateatthelevelofabstract normativeconcernsandoftenendupsuggestingmechanismswhich achievetheoppositeofwhatwasintended.

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IfthisapproachhaslandedtheDelimitationCommissionwitha weak justification for the way it has decided the reserved (Scheduled Caste) constituencies for the Lok Sabha, the same inattention has led to a deeply flawed framing of the current Women’s Reservations Bill. Given the state of the disciplineof political science in our country and its lack of connect to the democraticprocess,itmaybeanundeservedcomplimenttoeither blamethedisciplineforthiscognitivefailureortoexpectittolead a recovery. What is required here is nothing short of a new disciplinethatseekstounderstandtherelationshipbetweenlaw, institutionsandthepoliticalprocessesinanon­westernsetting.We cannothopetoaddresspressingbutcomplexissuesliketheunder­ representationofMuslimswithoutthiskindofbodyofknowledge.

Third,likemuchofthediscussiononpoliticalreforms,thethinking onpoliticalrepresentationisatbestnon­politicalandoftenanti­ political,characterizedbyadeepsuspicionofpoliticalactorsand disregard for the necessary requirements of democratic political competition. A perspective ill at ease with democracy seeks to insulateanexerciselikedelimitation,orreviewoftheConstitution for that matter, from questions of political theory and from a readingofthejourneyofIndiandemocracy.Thisapproachseeksto protectthepeopleagainsttheirrepresentative,viewsanyincreasein the number of representatives as nothing but a burden on the exchequerandgetsalarmedatthepanchayatirajrepresentatives developinglinkageswiththeMLAsandMPs.

Perhaps some complaints of the MPs and MLAs who were Associate Members of the Delimitation Commission about not gettingafairdealmaybelinkedtothissuspicionofpoliticalactors. A disregard for democratic political competition may partially accountfortheindifferencetoquestionslikefreezeintheshareof seatsforvariousstatesandtheunder­enfranchisementoftheurban poor.

Theproblemwiththisapproachorparadigmisnotjustthatitis mistaken. We are dealing with something more than a simple cognitiveerrorhere.Thiserrorislinkedtoequationsofpowerand thesocialoriginsofthosewhoholdthisanti­politicalview.The ensembleofeconomyoftruth,socialoriginsofpartialbutdominant knowledge, and its connection with structures of power has a classicalname:ideology.Anyattempttomakesenseofpolitical representation in contemporary India is thus an ideological enterprise, particularly so when it is not conscious of its own ideology.

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Footnotes:

1.PratapMehta’sTheBurdenofDemocracy,Penguin,Delhi,2003isoneofthe

fewexceptionstothissplit.NirajaJayal,RepresentingIndia,Macmillan,2006

offersthemostsystematicandcomprehensiveevidenceforunder­standingthe paradox.Foranotherattempttolookatbothsidesofthisparadox,seeYogendra YadavandSuhasPalshikar‘FromHegemonytoConvergence:PartySystemand

ElectoralPoliticsintheIndianStates,1952­2002’,JournalofIndianInstituteof

PoliticalEconomy,XV(1&2),January­June2003.

2.Foranimpressivecollectionofdataandotherinformationonthestateof

panchayatirajinstitutions,seeTheStateofthePanchayats:AMid­termReview

andAppraisal,Vols1­3,MinistryofPanchayatiRaj,GovernmentofIndia,2006.

3.ForcomprehensivefiguresonthechangingsocialprofileofLokSabhain

terms of caste and religious background of elected MPs, see Niraja Jayal, RepresentingIndia.Forasimilaranalysisofthesocial profileofMLAs,see Christophe Jaffrelot and Sanjay Kumar (eds.), Rise of the Plebeians: The Changing FaceoftheIndian LegislativeAssembly,Routledge,Forthcoming. TheentiredataonthesocialprofileoftheMLAswillsoonbeputinthepublic domainbytheCSDS­CSH­CERI.

4.SeeAjoyBose,Behenji:APoliticalBiographyofMayawati,Penguin/Viking,

2008foraninformativeandfairaccountofMayawati’srisetopower.

5.ChristopheJaffrelot’sIndia’sSilentRevolution,PermanentBlack,2003isthe

mostpersuasiveyetnuancedandempiricallyrichstatementofthisposition.

6.Forsomeevidenceofanti­incumbencyinIndiaseeYogendraYadav,‘The

ThirdElectoralSystem’,Seminar480(asymposiumonthestateofourpolity

andthepoliticalsystem),August1999.

7.SeeSDSATeam,StateofDemocracyinSouthAsia,OxfordUniversityPress,

Delhi,2008,forevidenceconcerningpopularopinionsoneconomicpoliciesin

thefivecountriesofSouthAsiaincludingIndia.

8.ForasampleofsuchreadingsseeSubhashC.Kashyapet.al.(eds.),Reviewing

theConstitution?Shipra,Delhi,2000.Thiskindofreadingisscatteredacrossin

theeditorialcontentsoftheEnglishmedia.

9. In 2004 Kuldip Nayar and Inder Jit had filed a case challenging The Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 2003 (No. 40 of 2003) which amended Section 3 ofthe Representation ofPeople Act by substituting the words ‘in India’ in the place of ‘in that State or territory’ for purposes of eligibility forcontesting forRajyaSabha.The Supreme Court dismissed the

petitionin2006.

10. The expression was used by the Bihar government for constituting a commissiontolookintotheconditionsofdalitcommunitiesthathavenotbeen abletotakemuchadvantageofreservations.Thisquestionhasalreadycomeup withregardtosub­classificationofSCquotaforgovernment jobsin Andhra Pradesh,HaryanaandPunjab.

11.Thedatainthereportconcerningtheunder­representationofMuslimsinthe

parliamentandstateassembliesisbasedonthepioneeringresearchbyIqbalA. Ansari in Political Representation of Muslims of India:1952­2004, Manak,

Delhi,2006.

12.Forarepresentativecompilationoffactsandviewsonthiscontroversy,see

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586YogendraYadav,Theparadoxofpoliticalrepresentation

MeenaDhanda(ed.),ReservationsforWomen,WomenUnlimited,Delhi,2008.

13.ThedeclarationsarenowavailableontheElectionCommission’swebsite

andthevariouswebsitesoftheChiefElectoralOfficersineachstate.Various ‘Election Watch’ organisations have come up with quick analyses of these

affidavits.‘NationalElectionAudit1999’,astudycarriedoutbytheCSDSand

sponsoredbytheElectionCommissionarrivedatsimilarconclusionsaboutthe

economicbackgroundofcandidates.

14. These include the Dinesh Goswami Committee, and the Indrajit Gupta Committeereports.

15.See the report ofthe parliamentary committee on reservations in higher judiciary cited in NirajaGopalJayal,op.cit.,2006.Thesocial profileofthe

mediaisoneoftheleastexploredareasofresearch.Apilotsurveyofthe315top

journalists/editorsacross38newspapers/newschannelsinthenationalcapital

foundthatnotoneofthemwasfromSC/STandlessthan10percentwerefrom

OBC/Muslims.DatasetcreatedbyAnilChamaria,JitendraKumarandYogendra

Yadav,CSDSDataUnit.

16.Mostofthefollowingdiscussionisbasedontheinformationprovidedinthe

officialwebsiteoftheDelimitationCommissionwww.delimitation­india.org.I wouldliketothankJusticeKuldeepSinghandN.Gopalswamy,Chairmanand Memberrespectively ofthe Delimitation Commission,foran opportunity to haveanextendeddiscussionaboutallthemajorissuesdiscussedhereatthe

ElectionCommissionon25February2008.Iwouldalsowishtoacknowledge

mygratitudetoProfessorK.C.Shivaramakrishnan,ChairmanCPRandclearly

theonepersonwhohasthoughtmostdeeplyaboutthedelimitationexercise.

Extendeddiscussionswithhimhavetaughtmeagreatdeal.

17.Forauseful summary ofdelimitation exercisein many democracies,see www.aceproject.org

18.AlistairMcMillananalysedtheimplicationsofthisfreezeandmadeavery

strongcaseforliftingit.See‘PopulationChangeandtheDemocraticStructure’,

Seminar506,October2001.

19.SomeofthefollowingpointsaredrawnfromYogendraYadav‘ARadical

AgendaforPoliticalReforms’Seminar506(ReformingPolitics),October2001.

Seminar 506(ReformingPolitics),October2001.