Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Coalition Jam of the Indian Parliament

As India heads for its fifteenth general election to the Lok Sabha, the media channels are clogged with numbers that the two major political alliances can cobble together as part of the 543 seats in the lower house of Indian parliament. The third front looms in the background as the balancing factor in a fragmented house that in all probability will be run by a coalition government representing a mix of "fundamental" interests of caste, religion & lingual communities.

Possibly the chances of a clear majority for any of the two biggies can increase if the number of seats is increased. In spite of the Delimitation Commission's exercises to change territorial constituencies, the number of seats since 1951 has increased by only 10% (489 to 543 in 2009) while the total population has increased by 200% (from 360 million in 1951 to 1.03 billion in 2001) .

Population growth alone should justify an increase of at least 50% to 800 seats. Further , remotely located and under developed geographical areas such as the North-Eastern states should get more reserved seats . Some tribal NE states like Nagaland & Mizoram continue to get just one seat when the requirements of the populace demand more. And maybe an additional dimension of unifying interest like "development" can be added by making larger tax paying states get a larger proportion of the incremental seats.

Overall a Lok Sabha of 825 to 850 seats will probably be more representative of the true character of Indian polity. This could then break the "coalition jam " that India seems to be locked in since 1996.

Cartoon Source : Ninan's World, Times of India.

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