Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

India has only 53 predominantly urban constituencies

Even Delhi has only five urban constituencies and only 8 cities in India are spread over at least 2 Lok Sabha constituencies

There are 200 urban constituencies in India if we were to go by an article in the Business Standard newspaper citing so-called market watchers (http://goo.gl/Wb2rCZ). A cursory check indicates this is likely to be an overestimate.

In this edition of Election Metrics, we will use census data to check how many urban constituencies there are, and if an urban-focused strategy can work in any particular state.

For the purpose of this piece, we will use data from the 2011 Census. Since the last delimitation happened based on the 2001 Census data, it is likely that our analysis might overestimate the number of urban constituencies. However, using the most current data gives us the advantage of including constituencies that were not primarily urban at the time of delimitation but have become so now.

According to Census 2011, there were 270 million Indians aged 16 and above living in urban areas and 540 million in rural areas. The assumption here is that anyone who was 16 in 2011 would be a registered voter for the 2014 general elections (we are assuming here that anyone who is eligible for voting will enrol).

Assuming that mortality rates in urban and rural areas are identical, this implies that one-third of all voters in the 2014 general elections will be urban. However, the question is if this means that we will have (543/3 = ) 181 urban constituencies.

By definition, urban areas are not contiguous or adjacent. Given that parliamentary constituencies are geographically contiguous regions, and that we have only 543 constituencies, this means that not every urban area is going to get its own constituency. As part of this analysis, we will look at the number of constituencies that are predominantly urban. More specifically, we will look at constituencies where the majority of population is from a single urban agglomeration.

Some of our slightly older readers might remember an exercise they did in school to measure the area of their palms. As part of this exercise, you had to trace the outline of your palm on a graph paper and then count the number of units that lie completely inside the outline, and the number of units where more than half the

For each state, we will look at the overall voting age population (16 plus as in the 2011 Census) and then divide it by the number of constituencies in the state to get an approximate figure of the size of a constituency in a state. Next, we will look at urban agglomerations in the state and see how many constituencies each of them covers. Rounding this off will give the number of constituencies each city covers. The aggregate of this gives us the total number of urban constituencies.

The more perceptive reader might notice that this leaves out constituencies where two or more urban agglomerations together account for more than 50% of the voters. The argument against that is that different cities are likely to have different sets of issues and so combining them is unlikely to give a unified urban vote in that constituency.

It is interesting to note that going by the data (Table 3), even Delhi has only five urban constituencies, indicating that there are large rural areas even within this city-state. It is also interesting to note that only eight cities in India are spread over at least two Lok Sabha constituencies.

To finally get to the number we were looking for, if you were to sum up the last column (Table 3), it totals up to 53. Yes, the total number of predominantly urban constituencies in India is only 53.

Postscript: There is another way to do the same calculation. This involves going through delimitation files and noting urban agglomerations that fall under each of the 543 constituencies and then totalling their populations to find the urban component of each Lok Sabha seat.

While that might bring up a number larger than 53, it is unclear if voters in different cities will vote similarly and if they constitute a combined urban vote bank.

Postscript 2: What if we had 10 times the number of constituencies as we do now? Would the number of urban constituencies been higher? Rudimentary analysis shows that if each current constituency were to be split into 10, then we would have 1,026 (out of 5,430, or 19%) urban constituencies.

Essentially, urban constituencies are likely to have a greater say in state assemblies compared with the Lok Sabha.

Close