Nearly a quarter of the seats in the Lok Sabha are “reserved” and they matter a lot in this election


  • The second phase of polling for India’s general elections gets underway on April 18.
  • Out of the eight constituencies in Uttar Pradesh that head to polls, four - Nagina, Bulandshahar, Hathras and Agra - are reserved constituencies.
  • This means that no candidate from a general category can contest elections to the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies from these constituencies. Only candidates from a Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) are allowed to contest.

The second phase of polling for India’s general elections gets underway on April 18.

Out of the eight constituencies in Uttar Pradesh that head to polls, four - Nagina, Bulandshahar, Hathras and Agra - are reserved constituencies.

Candidates
ConstituencyBJPCongressSPBSPIndependent
NaginaDr. Yashwant SinghOmvati DeviGirish ChandraCharan Singh
BulandshaharBhola SinghBanshi SinghYogesh VarmaManoj Kumar Singh, Radhika Devi
HathrasRajvir DilerTriloki RamRamji Lal SumanTilak Singh
AgraProf. S.P. Singh BaghelPreeta HaritManoj Kumar SoniBabu Lal, Ambedkari Hasnuram Ambedkari


But what does that mean?

No candidate from a general category can contest elections to the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies from these constituencies. Only candidates from a Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) are allowed to contest. SCs and STs are designated categories of disadvantaged groups, the former of which are colloquially referred to as “Dalits”.

Reserved constituencies are a result of India’s various reservation and representation laws. Around 131 out of 545 seats (24%) in the Lok Sabha are allocated to SCs and STs.

Uttar Pradesh has the most number of reserved seats, with 17, followed by West Bengal, with 12, and Madhya Pradesh, with 10.

As expected, India’s political parties overwhelmingly make their SC and ST candidates stand from these constituencies as opposed to non-reserved ones.

Who has the upper hand?

While there is no real strategy to winning elections in a reserved constituency, the key lies in playing to non-Dalit voters such as upper castes and non-dalit OBCs because the Dalit vote often gets split across several candidates.

In fact, the BJP has done a better job of winning reserved constituencies compared to its national counterpart- the Congress. Out of 8 elections since 1989, it has won 30% of the reserved seats compared to Congress’s 28% by reportedly catering more effectively to upper-caste voters.

Even in 2014, the BJP won more than half the reserved seats, at 67, followed by Trinamool Congress and the Congress, which won 12 each.

This aligns with Opposition claims that the BJP is a party of upper castes - a claim that’s given credence by the government’s 10% quota bill - and that it ignores the plight of disadvantaged sections of society.

The history of reserved seats

The reserved constituency system began to be enforced by the Constitution in 1950, and having been extended every ten years since, are currently scheduled to last until 2020, pending a further renewal.

In 2002, the Delimitation Commission increased the number of reserved seats from 119, bearing in mind the relative increase in SCs and STs as a proportion of India’s total population - 24.4% as per the 2001 Census.

In February 2016, the Supreme Court decided to review the Constitutional amendment that allowed the system of reserved constituencies to last until 2020 but ultimately decided to continue with it.


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