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Report No. 255

(iii) Representativeness

4.8.1. The principal criticism levelled against the FPTP system is that it leads to the exclusion of small or regional parties from the Parliament. There is commonly a discrepancy in the vote share and seat share in results, where votes given to smaller parties are 'wasted' since they do not gain a voice in the legislature.

What this often translates into is that the FPTP system, which boasts of the fact that it provides a majoritarian (and hence more democratic) government, is itself not able to adequately uphold majoritarianism in a multiparty system, since the winning candidate wins only about 20-30% of the votes.159

159. Madhav Godbole, Editorial, Reform of the Political System, Economic and Political Weekly, 39 (28) Economic and Political Weekly (2004)

4.8.2. Examples abound from Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections, where parties enjoying significant vote shares have failed to translate the same into seats.160 For example, the Indian National Congress won only about 49.10% of the total vote share in the 1984 General Elections to the Lok Sabha, but had a sweeping majority of 405 out of 515 seats in the House. In the elections to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1996, the AIADMK polled 21.47% votes, but could secure only four (1.71%) seats in the Assembly.161

160. Editorial, A case for proportional representation?, 47(11) Economic and Political Weekly, (2012); Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, Editorial, Between Formal and Substantive Legitimacy, 49(19) Economic and Political Weekly (2014)

161. V.S. Rama Devi and S.K. Mendiratta, How India Votes: Election Laws, Practice and Procedure, 1167 (3rd edn., 2014). (hereinafter "Mendiratta")

4.8.3. Smaller parties, when they have a broad base across constituencies, rather than a concentrated following in a few constituencies, may fail to win even a single seat even if their vote share is significant.

4.8.4. This also means that slight changes in the vote share cause dramatic changes in the number of parliamentary seats won, causing the Indian electorate to be characterised as one that decisively swings in one direction or the other.

4.8.5. On the other hand, while representativeness of political parties is not ensured in the FPTP system, it does encourage political parties themselves to have more broad-based participation. Moreover, it ensures that there is a link between a constituency and its representative in the legislature, and incentivises representatives to serve their constituents well.

Further, smaller districts are more likely to comprise of common interests, and the small size also facilitates better delineation of these regional interests through increased movements at the grass-root level, which ensure that representatives interact more closely with the constituents, at least in theory.162 This might, however, not hold true for districts with large populations,163 such as Thane and Pune, which hold over 11 crore and 9 crore persons respectively.164

162. McKaskle, supra note 155

163. Id

164. District Census 2011,
<http://www.census2011.co.in/district.php>



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