Should Presidential Polls Be Based on 2011 Census Instead of 1971?

Why do we use the 1971 Census to calculate the value of votes for the presidential elections?

Updated
Politics
3 min read
The presidential election is based on the 1971 census. File image of Rashtrapati Bhawan. (Photo: Reuters)

As the Election Commission gets set to announce the schedule for the Presidential polls at 5pm today, here’s a critical look at how the President is elected.

Do you know that India uses the 1971 Census to calculate the value of votes for the presidential elections? Now, you ask, how does that matter?

Indirectly, demographics play an important role in electing the President. Using the latest census, instead of the 1971 one, can change the whole scenario. We explain how.

How Is the President Elected?

The President is elected by an Electoral College that comprises Lok Sabha MPs, Rajya Sabha MPs and all members of the 31 Legislative Assemblies.

However, the value of each MP and MLA’s vote is calculated through a special formula, as prescribed in Article 55 of the Indian Constitution.



The math behind the presidential elections. How is the value of a vote calculated? (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
The math behind the presidential elections. How is the value of a vote calculated? (Photo: The Quint)

It is clear from these formulas that the value of an MLA’s vote is determined by the state’s population, and these votes form the basis of an MP’s vote value. The need to use updated population data assumes significance in such a scenario.

Elections Based on 1971 Census

The question of whether the presidential polls should be based on the new census reared its head in 2001. However, at the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA government put an end to the debate by amending the Constitution.

The demarcation of Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha seats was also done on the basis of the 1971 census. Up until 2004, elections to these houses were held on the basis of the same delimitation. Therefore, the Presidential elections continued on the same lines.

Why is the 1971 Census used to calculate the presidential elections? (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Why is the 1971 Census used to calculate the presidential elections? (Photo: The Quint)

How Would The Presidential Polls Work With The New Census?

The country’s population has more than doubled in the last 44 years. According to census data, the population grew rapidly in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. On the other hand, better implementation of family planning measures was evident in the low percentage increase in population in states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

(Source: Census India, World Bank. Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
(Source: Census India, World Bank. Photo: The Quint)

Let’s calculate the vote value for presidential polls by taking into account the population data for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.

According to the 1971 Census, the mass strength of UP, Bihar and Rajasthan (15.25 + 7.65 + 4.69) is 27.59 percent in the presidential election. In 2011, however, this goes up to 32.98 percent (17.7 + 9.21 + 6.07) – an increase of 5.39 percentage points. Similarly, in 2011, the collective strength of Tamil Nadu and Kerala decreases by 2.02 percent.

Calculating vote value for the presidential polls using *revised population data from Census 2011. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Calculating vote value for the presidential polls using *revised population data from Census 2011. (Photo: The Quint)

Increase in Lok Sabha Seats

There has been a lot of debate over increasing the number of Lok Sabha seats. During the Emergency, the number of seats in the Lok Sabha were frozen as a means to control population. While southern states managed to attain this goal, the northern and eastern states failed.

Even though political parties support the National Population Policy on this matter, there is disagreement over how the elections to the Lok Sabha affect population control measures of each state.

According to the policy, the population of India will be stable by 2026 and changes can be made on the basis of the subsequent census, which will be conducted in 2031.

Therefore, be it the presidential elections, or the number of Lok Sabha seats, whatever change has to happen, will happen only after 2031.

(This story was originally published on Quint Hindi)

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