In India, some MPs representing up to 2.5 million people, says study

India does not have enough representatives in Parliament. India ranks among countries with the highest number of people-per-Member of Parliament (MP), shows data from across global legislatures. The people-per-MP ratio in India is higher than global and neighbourhood averages. Research has shown that not having the right number of representatives can have a significant impact on policy-making.

A study showed an average of one MP per 146,000 people globally. In India, the figure was ten times as much. There was one MP for every 1.5 million people. In fact, India had the lowest number of MPs relative to its population across democracies, shows data from a 2012 report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an association of national parliaments from across the world.  One MP representing 1.5 million people is poor even by the standards of its neighbours. The Asia-Pacific region had one for every 313,000 people, twice the global average. (See Chart 1)

The issue is unlikely to be the cost of maintaining an MP. Studies have shown that India spends amongst the lowest on Parliament. The per capita budget is $0.25 on a purchasing power parity basis, which allows for costs to be compared on an even basis across countries. (See Chart 2) 

There can be no increase in the number of members for some time. Parliament froze the figure at 545 (543, plus two nominated Anglo-Indian members) till 2026, based on the 1971 census. This was done to allow for population control measures to play out without skewing representation. This is because any increase in MPs will have to take population into account. Some states (especially southern ones) have been better than others in controlling their population. The amendment was because it was seen that states with better population control would be punished for their success, if states with higher population get more MPs.

But meanwhile, the issue of not enough representation remains. If one were to take the Lok Sabha alone, even states with the highest representation, such as Uttar Pradesh, have one MP representing over 2.5 million people. (See Chart 3)

Too few members can mean that policy is skewed in favour of some, noted a study of representation in 100 countries.

“With too few representatives, public decisions could well be biased in favour of active minorities, to the detriment of under-represented (or less organised) groups. Casual observations also suggest that the corruption level could be higher in countries characterised by an “excessive” number of representatives,” according to a March 1998 article in Public Choice, titled ‘On the Optimal Number of Representatives’, authored by Emmanuelle Auriol and Robert J Gary-Bobo.

It noted that too many members can create other problems. But that’s a worry that can wait till 2026.

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