One person, one vote, one value – Equal Votes, Unequal Representation: The Challenges of Delimitation in India | 18 December 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the challenges of Delimitation in India.


  • GS2: Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure; Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act.


  • In a democracy, true political equality goes beyond simply granting the right to vote.
  • It demands equal weight for every vote, ensuring that one person's voice carries the same power as another's.
  • However, this principle can be undermined by a process called delimitation, the redrawing of constituency boundaries.
  • This article analyzes the challenges of maintaining parity in voting power and explores how delimitation practices can both strengthen and weaken democracy.


  • Safeguards against Dilution:
    • India's Constitution acknowledges the importance of equal voting rights through several provisions.
    • Articles 81 and 170 mandate maintaining, as far as practicable, the same population ratio across Lok Sabha and state assembly constituencies.
    • The Delimitation Commission, established under Article 327, further aims to prevent gerrymandering by being independent and headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.
    • Additionally, Articles 330 and 332 ensure reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, reflecting their demographics in the delimitation process.
    • Regular updates based on decennial Census data aim to maintain parity over time.
  • Delimitation in Action: A Historical Perspective
    • India has witnessed four Delimitation Commissions since 1952.
    • Four Delimitation Commissions have been established (1952, 1962, 1972, 2002).
    • While the number of seats has fluctuated over time, concerns regarding population disparities remain.
    • For instance, the Delimitation Act of 2002 allowed a 10% variation in population per constituency, leading to inequalities despite adjustments.
    • However, the Commission successfully reassigned reserved seats based on population changes, reflecting the growing representation of Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
  • The article highlights two types of vote value dilution:
    • Quantitative Dilution: This occurs when constituencies have vastly different populations, resulting in unequal weight for individual votes. The example of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu illustrates this disparity, where one MP represents significantly more people in the former than the latter.
      Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating electoral district boundaries to gain an unfair advantage in an election. It can be used to benefit a specific political party or to dilute the voting power of certain groups. Gerrymandering is considered undemocratic and can lead to less competitive races, reduced accountability, and a lack of representation for minorities. The use of modern technology, such as voter databases and districting software, has made gerrymandering more precise.
    • Qualitative Dilution: This involves manipulating constituency boundaries to weaken the electoral power of particular groups, often minorities. Gerrymandering techniques like “cracking,” “stacking,” and “packing” can significantly impact their representation.
      • Cracking: Dividing minority-dominated areas into smaller constituencies to weaken their voting power.
      • Stacking: Concentrating minorities into a few constituencies, making their influence negligible elsewhere.
      • Packing: Grouping minorities into a single, isolated constituency, effectively removing them from the broader political landscape.

Way Forward:

  • Delimitation cannot be delayed indefinitely, as population disparities will only widen. However, addressing both quantitative and qualitative dilution is crucial for a fair and representative democracy.
  • The next Delimitation Commission must consider population changes while also guarding against gerrymandering practices that disenfranchise minorities. Balancing the interests of states with varying population growth rates will be another challenge.
  • Ultimately, ensuring equal voting power is not just a technical exercise but a fundamental pillar of a healthy democracy.

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