Elections in India : How far is justified to contest from two seats?

Currently in India, a candidate is allowed to contest from two seats in the same elections. Generally this is used by candidate to ensure their acceptability or to ensure his/her winning.

In case of winning from both, the government bears the cost of re-election from resigned seat as well as extra load and effort for officials and citizens.
So, what was the real reason/vision behind allowing this because each of the other act or law in the constitution is somehow justifiable?
It is  not understood as to why and how these provisions were kept at the time of framing of Constitution. But why is this so? First, competing from two constituencies gives them a back-up plan in case they fail to win from one of their two constituencies. Conversely, winning from both the constituencies enhances the credibility of their victory and projects them as efficient leaders. But when the expenses are being met from the money of taxpayers, boasting about a victory seldom holds ground with the masses.
The Election Commission has once again asked the government to amend the laws to bar people from contesting two seats or, at least as a deterrent, a candidate who vacates a seat necessitating a bypoll should be asked to deposit an appropriate amount in state coffers.
The Representation of the People Act, 1951 allows a person to contest a general election or by-elections or biennial elections from a maximum of two constituencies but the candidate can retain only one. 
Before a 1996 amendment in the electoral laws, there was no bar on the number of seats a person could contest. 

In a compendium of electoral reforms proposed by the poll panel to the Law Ministry, released earlier this month, the Commission said it has proposed amendment to section 33(7) of the Act. 

In its 2004 proposal, the EC had said that if the law cannot be changed to bar people from contesting on more than one seat, then the winning candidate should bear the cost of the by-election to the seat he or she vacates. But is natural that when a candidate contests from two seats, it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats should he win both. 

The amount then proposed was Rs 5 lakh for state assembly and state legislative council elections and Rs 10 lakh for Lok Sabha polls. 
"This, apart from the consequent unavoidable financial burden on the public exchequer and the manpower and other resources for holding by-election against the resultant vacancy, would be an injustice to the voters of the constituency which the candidate is quitting from," the compendium read.  It said the amount it recommended in 2004 should be increased to "something more appropriate for serving as deterrence to the candidates". 

In its report on electoral reforms a couple of years back, the then Law Commission headed by Justice A P Shah (Retd) had also recommended barring candidates from contesting polls from more than one seat. 
Now the Election Commission has recommended that there should be appropriate increase in the amount of recovery recommended in 2004 as it feels that with the introduction of this law, the practice of contesting on two seats will be discouraged.
In fact, presently there is a provision in the law that a candidate can contest at two seats at a time both in general and assembly elections.  However, there was no such condition before 1996 and one can contest on number of seats.  But it has been seen that certain people contest just to establish their identity in different constituency by filling the papers in more than one constituency.  Thus, in 1996, the condition of contesting minimum on two seats was enacted through an amendment in the Act. In this process also, the Election Commission has to face number of problems of making arrangements for reelection at the vacant seat and incurring extra expenditure once again besides involvement of district machinery for another considerable period by following the required formalities.  It has now been a long pending demand to bring change in this existing law also as there is no fun of spending the public collected through various means.
Frankly speaking, the main reason behind contesting from two seats is the security and surety to win at least at one seat.  The political parties field such candidates at two places, who are prominent among the party. 
This isn't the first time that this is happening though. Akhilesh Yadav ( Ferozabad and Kannauj in 2009 ), Mulayam Singh Yadav ( Kannauj and Sambhal in 1999 ), Lalu Prasad Yadav ( Chappra and Madhepura in 2004 ), Sonia Gandhi ( Amethi and Bellary in 1999 ) and even Indira Gandhi ( Rae Bareily and Medak in 1980 ) have all made use of this provision sanctioned by the law.   Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had vacated his Vadodara seat and retained the Varanasi seat after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
 Sonia Gandhi Congress President too had been fielded on two seats.  In Assembly elections also, the known figures prefer to contest from two seats.
Now the question arises, in case any candidate lost from one seat then how far is justified to give him the responsibility of important post in the government? Secondly, spending of huge amount on bypoll, at the second vacated seat is to bear out from public money.  Thus, the recovery of some amount on account of by-poll should not be termed as groundless.
Anyhow, I am sure, in the coming years the courts will deliberate upon the this issue and declare such pieces of legislations unconstitutional, especially since it is the people who are put to trouble to meet the expenses of the by-elections. However, until then, all we can do is deliberate and talk about it until it becomes an issue potent enough to draw the attention of those in charge.
Previous
Next Post »