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Mr PM, Please Note: 96 BJP MPs Have Three or More Children

Statistics on family sizes of elected leaders show whimsical disincentives cannot stabilise India’s population.
96 BJP MPs Have Three or More Children

Nearly 32% of the BJP's Lok Sabha MPs have three or more children.

On August 15, in his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of the problems that the population explosion poses to India’s future generations. He praised “responsible citizens” who are “self-motivated” to keep their family small. “Not only do they contribute to the welfare of their family but also to the good of the nation. They express patriotism,” Modi said.

As many as 149 Lok Sabha Members of Parliament (MPs) will fail Modi’s test of patriotism, as they have three or more children. Of these 149 MPs, the BJP accounts for 96. Or, to put in another way, nearly one-third (31.68%) of BJP MPs in the Lok Sabha do not adhere to the two-child norm, generally considered ideal for families and the nation.

Twenty-one BJP MPs have four and another 12 have five children. Badruddin Ajmal, the leader of the All India United Democratic United Front, and Pakauri Lal, a member of the Apna Dal, which is the BJP’s ally, have maximum number of children – seven each.

Read more: Under-Representation of Muslims Continues in 17th Lok Sabha

The two authors collated these details from the Lok Sabha website, where the profile of each MP is hosted. Some MPs stated their marital status, but did not mention the number of children they have. Another 190 MPs did not provide personal information of any kind.

To find out the number of children of these 190 MPs, we examined their affidavits submitted at the time they filed their nomination papers for contesting in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. These affidavits list the number of children who are the dependents of contestants. They, however, are not required to disclose names of children who are not dependent on them.

We secured additional information from government portals, Vidhan Sabha directories, media interviews of and stories on MPs and, in two cases, from caste association websites. Our margin of error on information regarding MPs will not be more than five or six of them.

We could not find information on 49 MPs in the public domain. Those who stated in their Lok Sabha profiles that they were married but whose affidavits did not list dependents were placed in the category of MPs having children between 0 and 2.

Our figures, weighing on the conservative side, are therefore, likely to underestimate the number of MPs with more than two children.

Table I shows nearly 28% of Lok Sabha MP have three or more children. Nearly 6% are single, which is to say they haven’t ever been married.

Table I: Number of MPs and Children | All
Children Number of MPs Percentage
2 Children and Less 314 57.93
3 Children and More 149 27.49
Unmarried# 30 5.54

*A total of 542 MPs have been accounted for
**1 SC seat in Bihar is vacant
***Information pertaining to 49 MPs was not available in public domain
#Unmarried are people who have not married at all. Divorcees are not counted under unmarried

Table II shows nearly 32% of BJP MPs have three or more children. They account for 18% of all Lok Sabha MPs. The party also accounts for a little less than half of unmarried MPs.

Table II: Number of MPs and Children | BJP
Children Category Number of MPs % of All MPs
2 Children and Less 168 31
3 Children and More 96 17.71
Unmarried 13 2.4

*Total BJP MPs 303

By contrast, the Congress has eight, or 15%, of its MPs who have three or more children. While the Congress is struggling to shrug off the dynasty tag, it seems to have a modern outlook on family size if one were to go by the profile of its current MPs. (See Table III)

Table III: Number of MPs and Children | INC
Children Category Number of MPs % of All MPs % of INC MPs
2 Children and Less 35 6.46 67.31
3 Children and More 8 1.48 15.38
Unmarried 3 0.55 5.77

*Total INC MPs 52

These figures also acquire a special significance because Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha, who is styled as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue in television debates, moved a private member’s bill, the Population Regulation Bill, 2019, in July. In a way, Sinha’s concerns were similar to those of the Prime Minister.

The Population Regulation Bill proposes several incentives for those who have less than two children and disincentives for those with more than two children. Among the disincentives, the bill proposes that those with three or more children should be debarred from becoming an MP, MLA or a member of a local self-government body after the commencement of the Act. 

If Sinha’s bill were to be enacted, then one-third of current BJP MPs will not be able to contest in the Lok Sabha elections. Among the BJP MPs who will become ineligible to contest include powerful ministers like Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, and even minister of state for tribal affairs, Renuka Singh Saruta.

An act on the line of Sinha’s proposal will also, to an extent, adversely affect the regional parties. Table IV shows MPs belonging to parties other than the BJP and the Congress. Forty-five (24.5%) of them have three or more children.

Table IV: Number of MPs and Children | Other Parties
Children Category Number of MPs % of All MPs % of Other MPs
2 Children and Less 111 20.48 59.36
3 Children and More 45 8.3 24.06
Unmarried 14 2.58 7.49

*Total Other Party MPs 187

Among the regional parties, the All Indian Trinamool Congress (AITC) will be least affected. Table V shows that only two of that party’s MPs have three or more children.

Table V: Number of MPs and Children | AITC
Children Category Number of MPs % of All MPs % of AITC MPs
2 Children and Less 16 2.95 72.73
3 Children and More 2 0.37 9.09
Unmarried 3 0.55 13.64

*Total AITC MPs 22

It will also affect the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) less than the BJP, as shown in Table VI and Table VIII.

Table VI: Number of MPs and Children | DMK
Children Category Number of MPs % of All MPs % of DMK MPs
2 Children and Less 18 3.32 75
3 Children and More 6 1.11 25

*Total DMK MPs 24

Table VII: Number of MPs and Children | YSRCP
Children Category Number of MPs % of All MPs % of YSRCP MPs
2 Children and Less 14 2.58 63.64
3 Children and More 5 0.92 22.73
Unmarried 1 0.18 4.55

*Total YSRCP MPs 22

The AITC, the YSRCP and the DMK principally operate in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. These three parties have the same Total Fertility Rate (TFR) – 1.6 – which measures the number of children born to a woman at the end of childbearing age. The difference in the percentage of MPs belonging to these three parties shows a tenuous link between the numbers of children that MPs sire and the TFR in their states. This underscores the whimsical nature of Sinha’s proposal to proscribe such politicians from contesting in any election.

On August 16, Sinha wrote a piece for the Hindustan Times, hailing Modi’s show of concern regarding the “population explosion” in India. In the piece, Sinha warned against communalising the debate on demography.

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Yet, quite ironically, he spoke of Hindus growing at the rate of 16.68% between 2001 and 2011, in contrast to Muslims growing at 24.64% in the same period. What Sinha omitted to mention was that the growth rate of Muslims between 1991 and 2001 was 29.5% and therefore, had registered a 4.9% decline by 2011.

Table VIII shows 9 out of 25 Muslim MPs have three or more children. In contrast to Sinha’s depiction of Muslims being outliers in the population problem, at least the data on Muslim elected representatives does not compare unfavourably with BJP MPs.

Table VIII: Number of MPs and Children | Muslims
Children Category Number of MPs % of All MPs % of Muslim MPs
2 Children and Less 13 2.4 52
3 Children and More 9 1.66 36

*Total Muslim MPs 25

Table IX shows 32.31% of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe MPs, regardless of party affiliation, have three or more children. Allocated 131 constituencies from where alone they can contest, they account for a marginally higher percentage of all MPs who have three or more children (Compare Table IX with Table I)

Table IX: Number of MPs and Children | SCs and STs
Children Category Number of MPs % of All MPs % of SC & ST MPs
2 Children and Less 62 11.44 47.69
3 Children and More 42 7.75 32.31
Unmarried 10 1.85 7.69

*Total SC and ST MPs 130
**1 SC seat in Bihar is vacant

The above statistics regarding MPs and their children underline the banality of the measures proposed to tackle India’s population explosion. It is believed that social groups dogged by illiteracy and low incomes tend to have more children than their wealthier counterparts. Sociologists will have to fathom two pertinent questions: Do MPs have more children than, say, middle class families in metros, because of their conservative mindset? Or does their wealth enable them to support large families, as is said to be happening in the United States.

When Sinha tabled his bill, the Population Foundation of India, a civil society entity established in the 1970s to tackle the challenge of India’s population growth, warned, “Imposing a two-child norm will add to the burden on women, by way of sex selective practices and forced sterilisation. This could result in a setback to population stabilisation efforts, as it happened during the emergency period in mid-1970s.”

Any imposition of a two-child norm, either through coercive methods or disincentives, cannot become democratic just because it is dressed in patriotism.

Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist based in Delhi. Vignesh Karthik K.R. is a doctoral student at Kings India Institute, King’s College, London.

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