586 Yogendra Yadav, The Paradox of Political Representation

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    The paradox of political representationYOGENDRA Y ADAV

    POLITICALrepresentationfacesaparadoxincontemporaryIndia.Ontheonehand,thepracticeofrepresentativedemocracyforoverhalfacenturyhasledtoawideningofthepoolfromwhichpoliticalrepresentatives are recruited, accompanied by a reduction in themismatchbetweenthesocialprofileoftherepresentativesandthosewho are represented. This deepening of representative democracycoexists, on the other hand, with a thinning of the very idea ofrepresentation.

    The institutional designs for filtering claims to representation,devices for popular control over elected representatives, and themechanisms for linking the policy agenda of representativeinstitutionswith theneedsanddesiresof therepresentedhavenotkeptpacewithdemocraticupsurgefrombelow.ProgressonWhoistherepresentative?isaccompaniedbyastepbackinWhatdoesthe representative do? A focus on these two questions takes ourattention away from What gets represented?, the foundationalconcernofpoliticalrepresentation.

    Theintensityoftheparadoxismatchedbyourcollectiveinabilityto look simultaneously at both sides that constitute this paradox,resulting in an avoidable divide in our public responses to thequality of Indian democracy.1 One set of observers note, quiteaccurately, thebroadeningof thebaseof political representatives,thankstotheinaugurationoftheconstitutionallyprotectedthirdtierof democracy.2 One need not rely upon the moving but episodictales of the revolutionary dalit mahila sarpanch to register thestaggering expansion in the number of political representatives from about 4000MPs andMLAs in the country towell over 30lakh elected representatives in panchayat and nagarpalika bodies.Clearly, an expansion of this order cannot but change the socialprofileoftheelectedrepresentatives,bringingitclosertothesocialprofileoftheelectors.

    This expansion coincideswith and reinforces a noticeable shift inthesocialprofileoftheelectedrepresentativesintheuppertiersaswell.3Thestrangleholdof theHinduuppercasteelite,wellversedinthelanguageandprotocolsofmoderndemocracy,has loosenedtoyieldsomespacetotheelitefromthenondwijaandoftennondominant backward communities, especially in the Hindiheartland. This has contributed to the confidence of the political

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    leadersfromlowersocialorderandtheirchancesofclaimingsomeof the highest positions in our representative democracy. Thespectacular and justly celebrated rise of leaders likeMayawati orLalu Prasad Yadav becomes the public face of this socialtransformation.4 On a narrow reading, divorced from issues ofsubstantive agenda and policy consequences, this transformationappearsasnothingshortofasocialrevolutionthroughtheballot.5

    Another set of observers of Indian democracy focus, quiteappropriately,ifnarrowly,ontherepresentation,or rather the lackof it, of popular issues and concerns in the political and policyagenda.Itdoesnottakemuchtoregisterthedistanceofpoliticalrepresentatives from those they seek to represent, resulting in aroutine senseofpopular frustration.This frustrationgets reflectedin the voluble complaints about political corruption and the veryhigh attrition rate, arguably one of the highest in democraticsystems, of the incumbentMPs andMLAs in theLokSabha andassembly elections.6 Ordinary citizens feel that they are at themercyof political leaders, unable as they often are to contact, letalonecontrol,theirelectedpoliticalrepresentatives.

    Iftheexerciseoflegislativeandexecutivepowerforredistributionof resources in keeping with the priorities of the citizens is onemeasure of the working of the representational mechanism, therecordofIndiandemocracywouldappearprettydismal.Thelackofconnectbetweenpublicopinionon the roleof thestate inmatterseconomicandthepoliciesofeconomicliberalizationfollowedbysuccessiveregimesisagoodexampleofthisdemocraticdeficit.7

    Theriseofpoliticalleadersfromlowersocialorderinrecenttimeshasrarelybeenaccompaniedbyanysubstantialpolicymeasuresoruseofgovernmentalpowerforthebenefitofthelowersocialorder.Moreoftenthannot,asinBiharandUttarPradeshinthe1990s,asteepriseinthepoliticalrepresentationofthebackwardcasteshasbeen characterized by a period of governmental mess and nonperformance. No wonder, this perspective draws attention to thesevere deficits of representation. Add to this some ideologicalpurismandanuppercastevantagepoint,andthedeficitappearsasnothingshortofafailureoracrisisofrepresentativedemocracy.8

    This paradoxplaysout differently in thedifferent domains of thedemocratic arena. The most common form it takes is that of anencounter between a dynamic political process and an inflexibleinstitutionalresponse.Thesimultaneousriseanddeclineofthestateas the effective unit of political representation in national politicsserves as a good illustration of this type of encounter. With

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    competitivepolitics takingadecisive regional turn, thestatehasbecome the effective level of political choice in a Lok Sabhaelection.

    Inthe1970sand1980s,votersinthestateassemblyelectionsvotedasiftheywerechoosingtheirprimeministersincethe1990stheyvote in Lok Sabha elections as if they are choosing their chiefminister. This shift in favour of the state in the lower house hasbeen accompanied by a serious and substantial dilution of staterepresentation in the upper house of the Parliament. As politicalparties freely shuffle nominations to the Rajya Sabha with littleregard to domicile and little fear of loss of credibility, theconstitutional design of the upper chamber as representing theinterests of the states stands subverted. The Supreme Courtsdecision9upholding the legaldilutionof residential requirement inRajyaSabhawasinthisrespectafatalsetback.

    Thisparadoxicaldevelopmenthasproducedaconsequencethatnoonedesignedoranticipated:astheLokSabha,ratherthantheRajyaSabha,becomestheprincipalarenafortherepresentationofstates,theonusofmaintainingfederalbalancehasalsoshiftedtotheLokSabha.Thishas served to legitimisean illconceived freeze in theLokSabhaonthenumberofseatsforeachstatewhichviolatesthebasic principle of onepersononevote, besides working to thedisadvantage of some of the already disadvantaged units of theIndianUnion.

    A similar encounter between the political process and theinstitutionalframecanbeseenat the third tierofdemocracy.Thepassageofthe73rdand74thAmendmentstotheConstitutionandthe extension of constitutionally secured representative politics tothe third tier,perhaps inafitof legislativeabsentmindedness,setinto motion a political process that appears to be gainingmomentum. But the political establishment, with honourableexceptionslikethecurrentMinisterofPanchayatiRajattheCentre,appearsdeterminednottograntanyrealpowersorresourcestothenewtierofpoliticalrepresentation.

    Instead of redistributing resources and redirecting developmentalpolicies at the local level, theprincipal function that the third tiernow performs is to supply cadre and lower level functionaries topolitical parties in desperate need of an organization. Often it ismuchworse: thepolitical energy releasedby thisprocess leads toanintense,violentbutvacuousquestforlocalpoliticaldominance.

    The second form that the paradox of participation takes is the

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    simultaneousadvanceand retreat in thepolitical representationofthelowersocialorder.Itseemsasthoughdemocratsinourcountryare happy to live with gross violations of even the elementaryprinciples of representation, while being strident and selfcongratulatory about some relatively minor issues. There is nodoubt that the postMandal era in our polity has led to someimprovement in the presence of landowning or otherwisenumerically largeOBCcommunities in theHindiheartlandstates.Even though the quantum of change is much smaller than ispopularlybelievedandthelegislaturescontinuetomassivelyoverrepresent the forward castes, there is a qualitative change in thepolitical dynamics as the momentum has shifted away from thehithertodominantcommunities.

    Yet this advancement comes with builtin stagnation and retreat.Theriseinpoliticalrepresentationofsomebackwardcommunitieshas not led to a corresponding rise in the representation ofmanyothercommunitiesthatwouldbeapartofthelowersocialorder.There is little awareness about or willingness to engage with thesevere underrepresentation of the lower OBCs or the mostbackwardcastescuttingacrosstheNorthSouthdivide.

    Similarly there is little attention to an equally severe underrepresentation of the maha dalits,10 the dalit communities at thebottomoftheScheduledCastes.TheSacharCommitteereporthasservedtobringsomeattentiontothegrossunderrepresentationoftheMuslimsintheParliamentandstateassemblies,11but the issueisyettoacquirenationalsaliencenecessaryforanyremedialaction.The rise of castebased parties has triggered a political aspirationamong many of these underrepresented communities, but thisaspirationhits an intellectual andpolitical dead end since there isneither a design nor thewill to push for better representation forthem.

    There is little improvement in the political representation ofmarginalised social groups like women and the poor that do notpossess a selfconscious political identity. The WomensReservations Bill has brought some attention to the fact thatwomenspresenceinlegislatureshasactuallywitnessedamarginaldecline since independence.12 There is no such data to track thepresence of the poor in our legislatures. But if the episodicanalysis of the disclosures of property filed by candidates at thetimeoftheirnominationsisanythingtogoby,ourlegislaturesaredominatedbythesuperrich.13

    Thisishardlysurprising,sincetheminimumresourcesrequired to

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    seriously contest an election have kept escalating, most politicalparties lack organizational norms for selection of candidates andthereislittleflowofwhitemoneyintopoliticalparties.Letalonethepoor,anyonewhodoesnothaveaccesstovast,unaccountableanddisposablewealthhaslittlechanceofgettingaticketwiththepartialexceptionoftheCommunistparties.Noseriousinstitutionaldevices have been evolved to help the havenots from registeringtheirpresenceinrepresentativebodies.

    ProposalsofoneformoranotherforstatefundingofelectionshavebeenlyingbeforeParliamentforthelasttwodecadesbutacartelofbig parties and rich politicians has ensured a silence on thisquestion.14Ifanything, institutional interventionhasworked to thecontrary.Justasthepoliticsintherapidlyexpandingurbancentresbegins to be organized along class divisions, there come upinstitutional devices, including the latest delimitation, to keep theurbanpoorunderenfranchised.

    The third, the most invisible and perhaps the most debilitatingform of the paradox of representation is that the discussion onquality of representation is being reduced to the social identity ofthe representative precisely at a time when the politicalrepresentative is increasinglymarginal to themost vital decisionsconcerning legislation and governance. First, the passage of theantidefectionlawinitssecondincarnationhasleftlittlediscretionwithanMPoranMLAwhodoesnotwishtorisklosingherorhisseat.Hence,muchofthederivativeexpectationonthemandateandroleofanindividuallegislatorisnowredundantinourcontext.Asfarasthealreadydiminishingbusinessoflegislationisconcerned,therecanonlybeoneanswertotheclassicalquestionofwhomtheelected representatives represent: they cannot but represent theirpoliticalparty.

    Themoreimportantquestionthusis:Whodothepartiesrepresent?This is related to the second development, namely the rise ofpolitical families or the party supremo with a coterie, whichcomplicates much of the routine discussion about the nature ofpolitical representation. True the political families come from amorediversesocialbackgroundthanbefore:itwasearlierdifficultto imagine nondwija families like those of theGowdas,Marans,Badals,ChautalasorMulayamSinghYadavswieldingthekindofpoliticalclouttheydotoday.Butitwouldbefaciletoassumethatthesefamiliesrepresent theinterestof thecommunities theycomefrom.The rule of political families or the supremo from agrariancommunities has proved to bemore conducive for the capture ofstatepowerbyorganizedindustrialandbusinessintereststhanwasthecasebefore.

    Third, the issue of political representation itself is declining in

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    salience due to a shift in the locus of decisionmaking from thelegislature and executive to independent bodies and the judiciary.Simultaneously, the media has emerged as the key and notsoneutral mediator in how any political issue is represented to thepublic and thus sets limits to the political agenda. It is nocoincidencethatthejudiciaryandthemediahaveremainedmostlyuntouchedevenbythelimitedpresenceofthelowersocialorder15as in the legislatures and thus immune to the pressures of thedemocraticupsurge.

    The latest delimitation of the Lok Sabha and assemblyconstituencies needs to be viewed in the light of this largerunderstanding of the paradox of representation in contemporaryIndia.16 It suggests that we should judge the latest delimitationexercise mainly on whether it deepens democracy rather thanassessingitonpurelyproceduralgroundsorwithreferencetosomeabstractprinciplesofdelimitation.Ifthisargumentisofvalue, thequestionstoaskare:Hasthelatestdelimitationkeptpacewiththedemocraticupsurgeofourtimes?Doesitcontributetothecapacityofourinstitutionalmechanismtorespondtothepoliticaldynamismunleashedbytheriseofthelowerordersofsociety?Doesitallowa better connect between the represented, the representatives andtherepresentations?Inthatsense,anassessmentofthedelimitationexercisemustnotbeconfinedtoacriticismofthefinalorderoftheDelimitationCommission.Suchanassessmentcannotbutimplicatethe Parliament, the Delimitation Commission and entire politicalestablishmentthatparticipatedinthisexercise.

    Itisimportanttosortoutthecriteriaofassessment,foragiganticand incredibly complex exercise like this one is bound to invitecomment, criticism and controversy. The final order of theDelimitation Commission has been debated in the media, thepolitical circles and the Parliament itself and subjected to severecriticisminvariousfora,includingthisissueofSeminar,onvariousgrounds: the composition of the Delimitation Commission, itsprocedures, guidelines and of course its substantial orders withregardtothewaytheboundarieshavebeendrawnandfinally,thereservation of seats. The degree and the tone of the criticismsuggests that this delimitation order has drawn sharper reactionsthan itspredecessors. If thediscussion in theLokSabha(excerptsreproducedinthisissue)isanythingtogoby,thepoliticalclasshascertainlybeenlessthanwarmtothisroundoffixingtheboundaries.

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

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    commissionsorderthatthelatestdelimitationisnotasgoodasitspredecessors. Institutions like the Delimitation Commissionperformathanklessjobinanydemocracy.Ifitdoesitsjobwell,itwouldhavehelpedthosewhoaresilentandmostlyunawareofsuchan order at the same time it would have hurt some of the mostpowerfulpersonsinpubliclifeandinvitedcriticismwhichitcannotrespond to. Therefore, one needs to be extracautious in findingfault with what the commission has decided. Besides, if thereception today ismorecritical, it couldwellbea functionof thegreater openness of public debate and the increased clout of themediacomparedtothetimeswhenthelastdelimitationtookplacethreedecadesago.

    Itisalsonecessarytoplaceourassessmentinalargercomparativeframe of the experience of drawing political boundaries in othercountries.17Thedelimitationexerciseacquiresaspecialsignificanceincountrieslikeoursthatfollowthefirstpastthepostsystemwithsingle member district, for it has the potential of affecting theoverall political outcome of elections. There are many countries,includingtheUS,wherefixingtheboundariesisablatantlypartisanactofpoliticalfixingsoastobenefitoneparty.

    InthiscontextwemustnotethattheDelimitationCommissionhascontinuedwiththetraditionofnonpartisanshipthathasmarkedtheboundarydrawingexerciseinourcountry.Whileithasnotescapedcriticismonspecificcountsforordersthatonthefaceofitappearlessthanfair,therehasbeennosuggestionfromanyquarterthattheentireexercisewasorchestratedtofavouranypoliticalparty.Thisindicatesahealthydegreeofinstitutionalizationofthedelimitationprocess and underlines the wisdom of the makers of ourConstitution in providing for amechanism for delimitation in thefoundingdocument.

    Whilethedelimitationshowsthevirtuesofnonpartisanship,italsodriveshomewhynonpartisanshipisnottheonly,oreventhemostsalient, virtue of political design. Besides being nonpartisan, apoliticaldesignmustalsobeintelligentinthesenseofanticipatingthelongtermpoliticalconsequencesofthatdesignandincreatingastructure of incentives and disincentives to achieve the desiredobjects. Judgedagainst this somewhatdemandingexpectation, thelatestdelimitationexerciseisdifficulttobeproudof.

    It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this first mapping of thepoliticalgeographyof thecountry in the21stcenturydidnot faceuptosomeofthekeychallengesofthedemographicandpoliticaltransition in our republic. The country has missed a majoropportunity to align the political map to the emerging politicalreality of our democracy. Thanks to an extraordinary decision bythepoliticalclasstopostponethenextdelimitationforanotherthree

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    decades India is perhaps the only country in theworld to havesuch a long gap between boundary drawing exercises theinfirmities of the current delimitation have been woven into thetextureofrepresentationforthenextgeneration.

    Sincethecommissionhasnot,atleastsofar,releasedanynarrativereportoutliningtherationalebehinditsorder,itisnoteasytoinferthe larger understanding that informed it. But the informationavailable in the public domain press reports, accounts of someassociate members and the parliamentary debates gives animpressionofanexercisethatkeptasafedistancefromtheburdenofa largerunderstandingofdemocratic transformationon theonehandandthenittygrittyof technicalexpertiseonelectoralsystemdesignon theother. It ishard todetect anyoverallperspective inthis casebycase approach. This approach marks most of theattemptsatpoliticaldesigninginourcountry.

    The first big opportunity missed was to reapportion the share ofseats fordifferent states inkeepingwith theircurrent shareof thecountryspopulation.18TheblameforthismustbelaidatthedoorsoftheParliament.TheParliamenttiedthehandsofthiscommissionwith a constitutional amendment that froze the number of LokSabha seats for each state as per their share in population in the1971 Census. This was an unusual extension of an extraordinaryamendment that flouts the basic constitutional and democraticprincipleofoneperson,onevote,onevalue.

    When the amendmentwas first passedduring theEmergency, therationaleofferedwasthatafreezeinparliamentaryseatswouldnotdisincentivise the states that sought to control population growth.Whilethelatestextensiondidnotrepeatthisfunnyreasoning,ithasnotcaredtoprovideafreshone.Clearly,whatappearsawhimsicaldecisionhasover timecongealed intoanunstated federalcontractbetween the North and the South. It remains to be seen if thisamendmentwouldstandjudicialscrutiny.Ithasalreadypassedthetestofpoliticalconsensus,thankstotheadventofcoalitionpoliticsattheCentre.

    The consequences of the freeze have been summarised in theaccompanying table. Clearly the bigger gainer in this politicalbargainisTamilNadu,whoseshareintheLokSabhawouldhavecomedownfromthecurrentkittyof39tojust32iftheseatswerereapportioned as per the population share in 2001. Conversely,UttarPradeshwouldhavegained sevenseats.ThebiggainersareloadedintheSouth:TamilNadu,Kerala,AndhraPradesh.ThebiglosersarefromtheHindiheartland:UttarPradesh,Rajasthan,Bihar

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    andMadhyaPradesh,besidesMaharashtra.

    We do not have robust population estimates to do the samecalculation for 2031 which would be the basis for the nextdelimitation. But we are clearly looking at a loss and gain ofupwardsof50LokSabhaseatsbythattime.Thelongerthefreezepersists,themoredrasticanddifficultanydefreezewouldbecome.Itseemsthatunlessthereisajudicialinterventionwemayhavetolivewithunequalvalueofthevotescastbythecitizensindifferentpartsofthecountry.

    WhiletherewasatleastsomelogictofreezingthenumberofLokSabha seats, the Parliaments decision to freeze the number ofassemblyseatswassimplybeyondany reason.Soweare fated topersist with an anomalous situation of Uttar Pradesh with fiveassemblysegmentsineachLokSabhaconstituencycomparedtosixinBiharandMaharashtraandseveninAPandWestBengal.Thisisnota formalpoint.An increase in thesizeof theassemblywouldhave reduced thenumberof voters that eachMLA is expected torepresentandthushelpedgreaterpoliticalaccountabilityandbetterconnectbetweentheelectorsandtheirelectedrepresentative.

    ApportionmentofseatsintheLokSabha

    OverandUnderrepresentationofStatesUsingthe2001CensusFigures

    Seatscurrent

    Proportionalseatsusing2001

    Censuspopulation

    OverandUnder

    representation

    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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    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.

    Thesecondmajoropportunitymissedwastoaddressthelongtermquestionofunderenfranchisementoftheurbanvoter,especiallytheurban poor. Our system seems to have learnt little from thedisastrousexperienceof theprevious freeze in delimitationwhichresultedinmonstrousconstituencieslikethatofEastDelhiwithanelectorate of over 30 lakh. Two steps were required to avoid therepetition of this experience. One, the time lag between twodelimitations had to be reduced so as to allow for revisionaccordingtothelatestpopulationfigures.Thebest solutionwouldhave been to go back to the original constitutional mandate of afreshdelimitationaftereverydecennialcensus.

    Two, for the intervening period reliable population projectionscould be used. Countries like Australia use the populationprojectionmethodforthispurpose.Oursituationofrapidmigrationtourbanareasdemanded thatwe takeboth thesestepseventuallynone of the remedies were accepted or perhaps even considered.We can be fairly sure that the experience of East Delhi will bereplicated in Gurgaon, NOIDA, Faridabad and dozens of otherperipheriesofurbancentresalloverthecountry,leadingtoasevereunderenfranchisement of the urban poor halfway through theperiodofthecurrentdelimitation.

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    Thethirdmajoropportunitymissedinthecurrentexercisewastobegin to think about addressing the underrepresentation of somecommunities. This is not an easy question to tackle. It is anestablished principle of delimitation that the boundaries shouldcoincide with communities of interest as much as possible. Thetroubleofcourseisthatcommunitiesofinterestcanbedefinedina variety of ways: geographicallydefined communities orcommunitiesthatshareacommonrace,ethnicortribalbackground,or the same religion or language. It is alsowellknown that oncedrawn, boundaries tend to perpetuate the identity that in the firstplaceinformedtheboundaries.

    Whileeverypoliticalactor talksabout thesepoliticalcommunitiesallthetime,wetendtomaintainanofficialsilencewhenitcomestoformalpoliticaldesigns.TheSacharCommitteereportidentifieddelimitationasakeytoMuslimpoliticalrepresentation.Whilethecommittee may or may not be right in suggesting that thedelimitation is a possible cause for the underrepresentation ofMuslims, this was a valid cue for thinking of delimitation as apossiblesolution.

    There are various ways in which the existence of socialcommunities may be taken into account while drawing theboundaries. We do not need to follow the American method ofcarving black majority constituencies. It is wellknown that thepoliticalboundariesinthenortheasternhillstatesmostlyrespecttheboundariesofethnicity.Insteadoftakingonthiscomplexquestionand begin thinking of a way out, the Parliament and theDelimitationCommission chose to postpone this discussion by atleastaquarterofacentury.

    The fourth and perhaps the biggest opportunity missed, in thisinstanceby theDelimitationCommission,was its refusal to alignthemapof the first and the second tier of democracy to the thirdtier.We have a ridiculous situation of two unconnected politicalmaps for the entire country one for Lok Sabha and assemblyelections and another for panchayat and municipal elections.Accordingly, we also have two parallel electoral rolls. Thissituation was unavoidable immediately after the 73rd and 74thAmendmentastheearlierdelimitationcouldnothaveprovidedforthis.

    Nowthatwehavethethirdtier,oneoftheprincipalchallengesofthe recent delimitation was to connect the two maps, just as theassembly and the Lok Sabha constituencymaps are integrated. Itrequired the Delimitation Commission to define the boundary ofeach assembly segment in terms of a group of panchayats ormunicipalitywards.This is amatter of long term significance for

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    political representation, for itwould have ensured that panchayatiraj functionaries could have a meaningful relationship to theirMLAs. That could in turn create political incentives for pushingdecentralizationofpoliticalpower.

    Therearegoodreasonstobelievethatthecommissionwasawareofthischallenge.YetitisintriguingtoseethatthefinalorderoftheDelimitationCommissionhaspersistedwiththearchaicpracticeofdefiningtheassemblyconstituencyintermsofrevenuecircleinonestate,mandalaortehsilinanother,andpanchayatinyetanothersetofstates.Itishardtobelievethatthecommissionfounditdifficultto muster the administrative support or the technical expertise tomatch the two set of boundaries. Clearly, the DelimitationCommissioneither found thisquestion too trivial or toomessyorallowed petty bureaucratic turfwars to trump the largerrequirementsofdemocracy.AfuturehistorianofIndiandemocracymightfindthisdecisionofthefirstDelimitationCommissionafterthe73rdand74thAmendmentmostinexplicableanddisappointing.

    Aswecometotermsandlearntolivewiththenewdelimitation,thereisadangerthattheinfirmitiesofthenewdesignmightkickoffablamegame.WegetaglimpseofthatinthemannerinwhichthenewdelimitationorderwasdiscussedintheLokSabha,withmorethan onememberwanting to blame theDelimitationCommissionfor some of the provisions which flow straight from theDelimitationActpassedbytheParliament.Thecommissionmaybepushedintoadefensivemode,tryingtopassonmorethanthedueshareofproblemstotheParliament,theexecutiveandfunctionariesliketheRegistrarGeneralofCensus.Wearelikelytolosesightofthebigpictureinthisblamegame.

    If the reading suggested in this essay has anymerit, some of themostseriousflawsintherecentdelimitationexerciseflownotfromthe position that some of the key functionaries sitting in theDelimitation Commission or the LawMinistry or the Parliamenthappen to have taken, but from a paradigm that has come todominate our thinking about designing and reforming politics ingeneral and representation in particular. This is as true of theDelimitation Commission as it is of the Law Commission, theElection Commission of India or of civil society initiatives fordemocratic reform for that matter. These flaws affect thedelimitation exercise asmuch as they affect theunendingdebatesabout political reservation forwomen. In conclusion, therefore, itmay be more appropriate to reflect on some of the inadequaciesbuiltintothisparadigmofthinkingaboutrepresentation.19

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    First,muchoftheexistingthinkingismarkedbyreductionism,byareductionoftheissueofrepresentationtothesocialattributesoftherepresentatives. This understanding begins by identifyingrepresentationasoneofthekeyaspectsofdemocraticpracticeforitconcerns the political agenda which shapes the outcome ofdemocracy.Representationofissuesobviouslyrequiresanagency.Hence,thefocusshiftsfromrepresentationtorepresentatives,totheexclusionofotherinstitutionsandforcesthatarenolessdecisiveintheselectionoftheissuesthatgetrepresented.

    Thenextstepin this reduction is to link the representative to theelectors, for what the elected representatives do is linked to thecontrolexercisedbytheelectors.Thisleadstoasuggestionthatthelinkbetweentheelectorsandtheelectedisoneofresemblance,thattherepresentativemustmirrorthesocialattributesofthepopulationthey seek to represent. From this it is a short step to the finalreduction of social attributes into caste or community of therepresentative.

    Anonreductionistapproachtorepresentationcannotandmustnotoverlookthecasteorcommunityprofileoftherepresentatives.Onecannot simplyunderstand, for example, theway theLeftFront inWestBengalhasdraggeditsfeetontheidentificationoftheOBCsandextensionofanybenefits tothem,unlessonecarestodigandarriveatthefiguresofthedisproportionatepresenceofthetopthreeuppercastesamongtheMLAsandtheministersoftheLeftFront.A nonreductionist approach would require that the chain thatconnects the representatives to the electors be established in eachcase rather than assumed and that other institutions and causalfactorsbetakenintoaccount.

    Second, the existing approach to representation is marked by anearcompleteinattentiontothespecificitiesofthemechanismsanddevicesthatframerepresentation.Thereisasubstantialliteratureinthe discipline of political science, hidden from political scientistsandpoliticalcommentators in India,on thepoliticalconsequencesof electoral and political rules and institutions includingcomparative analyses of delimitation exercise in severaldemocracies. Much of the Indian discussion about politicalinstitutions,lawsandreformstendstodismisstheexactquestionofframingas if itwereaninconsequentialmatter,asmalldetail thatcansortitselfoutandwhichisbestlefttosometechnicians.Manyoftheproposalsforpoliticalreformoperateatthelevelofabstractnormativeconcernsandoftenendupsuggestingmechanismswhichachievetheoppositeofwhatwasintended.

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    If this approach has landed the Delimitation Commissionwith aweak justification for the way it has decided the reserved(Scheduled Caste) constituencies for the Lok Sabha, the sameinattention has led to a deeply flawed framing of the currentWomens Reservations Bill. Given the state of the discipline ofpolitical science in our country and its lack of connect to thedemocraticprocess, itmaybeanundeservedcompliment toeitherblamethedisciplineforthiscognitivefailureortoexpectittoleada recovery. What is required here is nothing short of a newdiscipline that seeks to understand the relationship between law,institutionsandthepoliticalprocessesinanonwesternsetting.WecannothopetoaddresspressingbutcomplexissuesliketheunderrepresentationofMuslimswithoutthiskindofbodyofknowledge.

    Third,likemuchofthediscussiononpoliticalreforms,thethinkingon political representation is at best nonpolitical and often antipolitical, characterizedby a deep suspicionof political actors anddisregard for the necessary requirements of democratic politicalcompetition. A perspective ill at ease with democracy seeks toinsulateanexerciselikedelimitation,orreviewoftheConstitutionfor that matter, from questions of political theory and from areadingofthejourneyofIndiandemocracy.Thisapproachseekstoprotectthepeopleagainsttheirrepresentative,viewsanyincreaseinthe number of representatives as nothing but a burden on theexchequer and gets alarmed at the panchayati raj representativesdevelopinglinkageswiththeMLAsandMPs.

    Perhaps some complaints of the MPs and MLAs who wereAssociate Members of the Delimitation Commission about notgettingafairdealmaybelinkedtothissuspicionofpoliticalactors.A disregard for democratic political competition may partiallyaccountfortheindifferencetoquestionslikefreezeintheshareofseatsforvariousstatesandtheunderenfranchisementoftheurbanpoor.

    The problemwith this approach or paradigm is not just that it ismistaken. We are dealing with something more than a simplecognitiveerrorhere.Thiserrorislinkedtoequationsofpowerandthe social origins of those who hold this antipolitical view. Theensembleofeconomyoftruth,socialoriginsofpartialbutdominantknowledge, and its connection with structures of power has aclassical name: ideology. Any attempt to make sense of politicalrepresentation in contemporary India is thus an ideologicalenterprise, particularly so when it is not conscious of its ownideology.

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    Footnotes:

    1.PratapMehtasTheBurdenofDemocracy,Penguin,Delhi,2003isoneofthefewexceptionstothissplit.NirajaJayal,RepresentingIndia,Macmillan, 2006offers themost systematicandcomprehensiveevidence forunderstanding theparadox.Foranotherattempttolookatbothsidesofthisparadox,seeYogendraYadavandSuhasPalshikarFromHegemonytoConvergence:PartySystemandElectoralPoliticsintheIndianStates,19522002,JournalofIndianInstituteofPoliticalEconomy,XV(1&2),JanuaryJune2003.

    2. For an impressive collection of data and other information on the state ofpanchayatirajinstitutions,seeTheStateofthePanchayats:AMidtermReviewandAppraisal,Vols13,MinistryofPanchayatiRaj,GovernmentofIndia,2006.

    3. For comprehensive figures on the changing social profile of Lok Sabha interms of caste and religious background of elected MPs, see Niraja Jayal,Representing India. For a similar analysis of the social profile of MLAs, seeChristophe Jaffrelot and Sanjay Kumar (eds.), Rise of the Plebeians: TheChanging Face of the Indian LegislativeAssembly, Routledge, Forthcoming.TheentiredataonthesocialprofileoftheMLAswillsoonbeputinthepublicdomainbytheCSDSCSHCERI.

    4.SeeAjoyBose,Behenji:APoliticalBiographyofMayawati,Penguin/Viking,2008foraninformativeandfairaccountofMayawatisrisetopower.

    5.ChristopheJaffrelotsIndiasSilentRevolution,PermanentBlack,2003isthemostpersuasiveyetnuancedandempiricallyrichstatementofthisposition.

    6. For some evidence of antiincumbency in India seeYogendra Yadav, TheThirdElectoralSystem,Seminar480(asymposiumon the stateof ourpolityandthepoliticalsystem),August1999.

    7.SeeSDSATeam,StateofDemocracyinSouthAsia,OxfordUniversityPress,Delhi,2008,forevidenceconcerningpopularopinionsoneconomicpoliciesinthefivecountriesofSouthAsiaincludingIndia.

    8.ForasampleofsuchreadingsseeSubhashC.Kashyapet.al.(eds.),ReviewingtheConstitution?Shipra,Delhi,2000.ThiskindofreadingisscatteredacrossintheeditorialcontentsoftheEnglishmedia.

    9. In 2004 Kuldip Nayar and Inder Jit had filed a case challenging TheRepresentation of People (Amendment) Act, 2003 (No. 40 of 2003) whichamended Section 3 of the Representation of People Act by substituting thewords in India in the place of in that State or territory for purposes ofeligibility for contesting for Rajya Sabha. The Supreme Court dismissed thepetitionin2006.

    10. The expression was used by the Bihar government for constituting acommissiontolookintotheconditionsofdalitcommunitiesthathavenotbeenabletotakemuchadvantageofreservations.Thisquestionhasalreadycomeupwith regard to subclassification of SC quota for government jobs in AndhraPradesh,HaryanaandPunjab.

    11.ThedatainthereportconcerningtheunderrepresentationofMuslimsintheparliamentandstateassembliesisbasedonthepioneeringresearchbyIqbalA.Ansari in Political Representation of Muslims of India: 19522004, Manak,Delhi,2006.

    12.Forarepresentativecompilationoffactsandviewsonthiscontroversy,see

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

    13.Thedeclarations are nowavailable on theElectionCommissionswebsiteand thevariouswebsites of theChiefElectoralOfficers in each state.VariousElection Watch organisations have come up with quick analyses of theseaffidavits.NationalElectionAudit1999,astudycarriedoutbytheCSDSandsponsoredbytheElectionCommissionarrivedatsimilarconclusionsabouttheeconomicbackgroundofcandidates.

    14. These include the Dinesh Goswami Committee, and the Indrajit GuptaCommitteereports.

    15. See the report of the parliamentary committee on reservations in higherjudiciary cited in Niraja Gopal Jayal, op.cit., 2006. The social profile of themediaisoneoftheleastexploredareasofresearch.Apilotsurveyofthe315topjournalists/editors across 38 newspapers/news channels in the national capitalfoundthatnotoneofthemwasfromSC/STandlessthan10percentwerefromOBC/Muslims.DatasetcreatedbyAnilChamaria,JitendraKumarandYogendraYadav,CSDSDataUnit.

    16.Mostofthefollowingdiscussionisbasedontheinformationprovidedintheofficialwebsite of theDelimitationCommissionwww.delimitationindia.org. IwouldliketothankJusticeKuldeepSinghandN.Gopalswamy,ChairmanandMember respectively of the Delimitation Commission, for an opportunity tohave an extended discussion about all themajor issues discussed here at theElectionCommissionon25February2008.Iwouldalsowishtoacknowledgemygratitude to ProfessorK.C. Shivaramakrishnan,ChairmanCPR and clearlythe one personwho has thoughtmost deeply about the delimitation exercise.Extendeddiscussionswithhimhavetaughtmeagreatdeal.

    17. For a useful summary of delimitation exercise in many democracies, seewww.aceproject.org

    18.AlistairMcMillananalysedtheimplicationsofthisfreezeandmadeaverystrongcaseforliftingit.SeePopulationChangeandtheDemocraticStructure,Seminar506,October2001.

    19.Someof the followingpoints aredrawn fromYogendraYadav ARadicalAgendaforPoliticalReformsSeminar506(ReformingPolitics),October2001.