Supreme Court takes up PIL to bar two seat contest by one candidate

TNN Bureau. Updated: 4/10/2018 12:41:26 PM Most Popular

The Election Commission batting for ‘one neta, one seat’ in elections, in the petition being heard by the Supreme Court, makes perfect sense.

Even if the EC’s stand goes against the Representation of People Act. To begin with, an aspirant contesting from two seats simultaneously betrays a lack of self-confidence; they’re merely hedging their bets, so to speak, to ensure a berth in the legislature. The candidate is unsure whether their track record in public service or pre-poll promises would convince voters to root for them. One is not referring to rookies trying to neutralise an adverse public verdict. The nominees in question are political stalwarts who hold important party positions and claim to have considerable sway over the people.

And yet, they don’t count their chickens in the fear that they might not hatch. Next comes the question of expenditure, the massive costs involved in holding Assembly or Lok Sabha elections. Just to get an idea of the scale of expenditure that the country incurs, it would be worth looking at a Niti Aayog study. The government think tank’s paper said that the State exchequer spent Rs. 1,115 crore and Rs. 3,870 crore for the Lok Sabha elections of 2009 and 2014, respectively. These figures do not reflect the total money spent on elections, including the astronomical sums pumped in by parties and candidates on campaigns and canvassing. For 2014 polls alone, an undeclared Rs. 30,000 crore found its way into the mainstream. That’s the cost of the dance of democracy.

However, bypolls have become a cause of headache because once the dust of the elections has settled; the seats vacated by victorious leaders create a new vacuum, which ought to be filled. Once again, the people and the Election Commission have to go through the motions, which puts an additional burden on the exchequer. There have been 23 Lok Sabha bypolls since 2014 across India, a majority of which were due to netas exercising their choice. While it’s justified calling for fresh elections in case of death of a sitting MLA or MP, the unnecessary hassles caused by the cases of insecurity could have been easily avoided. The political class needs to demonstrate its willingness to stop this tradition.

The Law Commission, too, had argued for an end to this special privilege. However, the Centre is yet to come up with its response to the case. As per the Election Commission’s deposition in the apex court, it had made its stand clear to the Centre twice, in 2004 and 2016. Attorney General K.K .Venugopal’s response, which will articulate the National Democratic Allowance’s views on the matter, will have an overwhelming bearing on the fate of the case. Here is an opportunity for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led ruling dispensation to rise above the binary of victory and defeat and create an everlasting impression in the public psyche. It can show itself to be different from other governments, which had been feeble and selfish.

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