- Since 1976, seats in the Lok Sabha have reflected the 1971 census and have not taken into account changes in the population.
- The primary reason for this has been unequal population growth among States.
- India’s most highly developed and prosperous States have been successful at family planning, while the poorer States continue to expand.
- The freeze was thus a chance to ensure that India’s most successful States are not punished politically for their success.
Shift in national power:
- The Indian Constitution may face an unprecedented crisis in 2026, due to dramatic change in the composition of the Lok Sabha.
- Post 2026, when this compact ends, there will be a seismic shift in national power towards India’s poorest and most populated States,
- This would generate much resentment among the States that will lose political and economic power and influence.
- Hence, this calls for a realignment in the balance between the democratic principle and the federal principle in the Indian Constitution.
Big versus small States:
- There exists the possibility of inherent contradiction between the principles of democracy and federalism, when federal units are unequal in size, population and economics.
- As in a democratic set up, all citizens are equal and are thus entitled to equal representation in governance.
- But this would imply that bigger States are likely to dominate the national conversation over smaller States.
- Hence, small States fear that they would get a smaller share of the pie economically, a much reduced say in national issues, and be irrelevant in the political governance of the country.
- The powers of States vis-à-vis the Centre contained in the Lists and in the provisions dealing with altering boundaries of States must be increased to assuage the fear of smaller States that they will be dominated by bigger ones.
- The role and composition of the Rajya Sabha, our House of States, must be expanded.
- This would allow smaller States a say over national majoritarian politics that adversely impact them.
- Constitutional change and the change in financial redistribution between the States must require the consent of all or nearly all States.
- Serious thought must be given to breaking up the biggest States into smaller units that will not by themselves dominate the national conversation.
MEASURES TAKEN BY OTHER FEDERAL DEMOCRACIES
- In order to assuage concerned fear, federal democracies have incorporated into their governing structures various kinds of compromises to ensure a balance between democratic principles and federal ones.
- For example, America has protected smaller States by providing following provisions in favour of its states:
- First, national powers over the States are limited.
- Second, each State regardless of size had two seats in the Senate, giving smaller States an outsized role in national governance.
- Third, Presidents are elected by electoral votes, which means they must win States rather than the total national population.
The unity of India is fundamental, but this unity does not depend on an overbearing Centre for its survival.
National bonds of affection and patriotism will not be severed by devolution of powers, but may be strained when one part of the country is empowered over another.
Hence, efforts to ensure balance between democratic and federal principles.