Why does the new Parliament building have more seats?

ByDeeksha Bhardwaj
Jun 07, 2023 05:12 PM IST

The new Parliament has 1,236 seats. The old one had 988. Here’s why.

The new Parliament will likely seat the houses for the first time in the upcoming monsoon session that is usually held in July. Interestingly, the four-storeyed, triangular-shaped Parliament has 248 more seats.

 The new Parliament has 248 more seats. But why?(AFP) PREMIUM
The new Parliament has 248 more seats. But why?(AFP)

Why? Because of a process called delimitation.

The delimitation exercise, a crucial process of redrawing electoral boundaries, holds immense significance in ensuring fair and representative elections across the country. Through this exercise, the number of parliamentary constituencies in each state is determined based on population dynamics and demographic shifts.

While the current boundaries were drawn on the basis of the 2001 census, the number of Lok Sabha seats and State Assembly seats remained frozen till 2026 on the basis of the 1971 Census.

Take for instance Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, which has witnessed a substantial rise in its population during the previous decade. As per the 2001 census, the state's population was 166 million, which increased to nearly 199.5 million according to the 2011 census. However, the number of parliamentary constituencies allocated to Uttar Pradesh based on the 2002 delimitation remains 80.

While states with larger populations are granted a greater number of constituencies, those with smaller populations receive a smaller allocation. For instance, Sikkim, which has only recorded a modest population growth in this time period, has only one Lok Sabha constituency. This process ensures that the diverse voices and aspirations of the Indian populace are adequately represented in the Parliament, regardless of the size or demographic makeup of their respective states.

However, the delimitation exercise is criticised by those who argue that states which have managed to control their population — also a significant mandate impressed upon them by the Centre — will stand to lose out.

Such controversies have led to legal battles and heated political discourse, highlighting the sensitive nature of delimitation and the potential for it to impact electoral outcomes. The pursuit of a fair and unbiased delimitation exercise remains an ongoing challenge for the political landscape.

The freeze on the total number of seats is only till 2026, so the number of seats is likely to increase substantially afterwards. However, the census — which will determine the basis of the latest elimination exercise — was supposed to take place in 2021 and has been delayed.

In the old building, the Lok Sabha could seat a maximum of 552 persons, while the Central Hall could seat a maximum of 436 persons. Often, at least 200 temporary seats were added in the aisles during joint sessions.

The new Parliament building, on the other hand, has 888 seats in the Lok Sabha and 348 seats in the Rajya Sabha.

Number theory

The Constitution (Eighty-fourth Amendment) Act, 2001 and the Constitution (Eighty-seventh Amendment) Act, 2003 amended Articles 81, 82, 170, 330 and 332 of the Constitution such that the total number of existing seats allocated to various states on the basis of the 1971 census shall remain unaltered till the first census to be taken after the year 2026.

The same rule was applied to the number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) members of Parliament, but these were allowed to be reworked on the basis of the 2001 census.

The idea behind freezing the number of seats was so that the state’s family planning programmes would not affect their political representation in the Parliament.

Political analyst Sandeep Shastri said that future expansion should be done keeping in mind the parity of representations of states that have ensured family planning.

“The problem is what formula is going to be used for the new seats. Are they going to be redrawn on the basis of boundaries, if that happens, a proportion of seats of states will come down. Say a state like Karnataka, which has 5%, if you redistribute seats solely on population, Karnataka will have lesser representation,” Shastri said.

He added that if they strictly go by national population, some states in the north which have been slow in implementing population control will have a larger number of seats. “This will have two implications: one, successful states will have lesser representation, and two, will it seem like we are rewarding the states that have not done this?”

Shastri said to increase the number of seats but the proportion should remain the same. “This means if Kerala has 20 of the 543 seats today, its proportion, 3.6%, should remain the same. This means you will ensure parity between the voters in the state.”

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