VIEWPOINT
March 06, 2019

An Indian MP represents nearly 25 lakh people, which is much more than what MPs in countries like Britain, Canada or the US do.

As the national elections of 2019 draw close, and incumbents prepare to face voters again, a straightforward question follows: how many people does a Member of Parliament really represent? On average, an Indian parliamentarian today represents constituencies with more than 1.5 million or 15 lakh eligible voters, or close to 2.5 million or 25 lakh citizens. This is more than the population of over 50 countries across the world and almost four times the number of citizens a Member of Parliament represented in the first Indian election in 1952.

The sheer size of the electorate that each MP is supposed to represent may be seriously undermining representative democracy in India. 

Indian Members of Parliament (MPs) represent many more people than MPs in other countries such as Britain, Canada or the US that elect a single representative from each geographically determined constituency. In Canada, each MP represents about 97,000 eligible voters whereas a British MP is accountable to approximately 72,000 voters. Each member of the House of Representatives in the United States has to win a plurality in constituencies with an average of about 5.8 lakh electors, which is about a third of the size of the average parliamentary constituency in India.

 Increasing electorate since 1952

In 1952, most MPs represented somewhat equal number of people (about 4.32 lakh eligible voters). Since then, not only has the size of the electorate increased for all constituencies, but there is also greater variation in the number of voters each MP represents.

An extreme example from 2014 is the large gap between the parliamentary constituency (PC) of Lakshadweep, which had less than 50,000 eligible voters, and Malkajgiri (now in Telangana), which had over 30 lakh eligible voters, an electorate the size of the entire population of Mongolia.

The accompanying table taken from Chapter 2 of the forthcoming book Constructing a Majority: A micro-level study of voting patterns in Indian elections shows an increase in the number of eligible voters across Indian PCs from 1962 to 2014. For each year, our bean plot shows the variation in the electorate across all PCs, ranging from the one with the smallest electorate to the one with the largest electorate. The small black dots that appear in the vertical line in each bean show the size of the electorate for individual PCs – the longer the line, the greater the discrepancy between the smallest and the largest PC. The horizontal line in the middle of each bean indicates the average number of electors across all PCs in that particular election year.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE GRAPH AND READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE.

Pradeep Chhibber is with the University of California, Berkeley. Francesca Jensenius teaches at the University of Oslo. Harsh Shah, an alumnus of the University of California, Berkeley, is a political analyst and works in the private sector.

This is the first in a series of six articles in ThePrint that will provide readers with comprehensive, research-based information about the Indian elections since 1962. The articles will also draw upon recent findings from Constructing a Majority: A micro-level study of voting patterns in Indian elections (forthcoming Cambridge University Press) by Francesca Jensenius, Pradeep Chhibber, and Sanjeer Alam. Read the series here 

Article first published in The Print 

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