Independents to play important role

Independent candidates come in droves to contest Lok Sabha polls and do not mind losing their security deposits. But in 2014, they will play a key role in deciding the fate of many candidates such as former Chhattishgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi.

After a decade, seasoned Congress leader Jogi is fighting the Lok Sabha polls from Mahasamund against BJP’s sitting MP Chandualal Sahu.

But there are 10 other independent candidates in Mahasamund with similar sounding names like “Chanduram Sahu,” whose collective vote share can have a bearing on Jogi’s fate. A change of even a few thousand votes can be decisive.

Over the years, independent candidates, like the ones in Mahasamund, have either become pawns in the political game or turned a rebel against such game, like BJP veteran Jaswant Singh, who is contesting from Barmer in Rajasthan as an independent after being denied party tickets. But it was not the case in the early days of Indian democracy.

In the first general election in 1952, as many as 533 individuals contested as independents out of which 37 won the polls. The number of independent MPs swelled to 42 in 1957, dropped to 20 in 1962 and again went up to 35 in 1967. Many of them were supported by mainstream parties.

V K Krishna Menon, who was the Defence Minister during the 1962 war, won the Lok Sabha polls in 1971 as an independent candidate from Thiruvananthapuram, supported by the Left parties. Menon was joined by 13 more independent members in the Lok Sabha.

The number of independents dipped post emergency. In the 10 general elections since 1977, their count did not cross the double digit mark except in 1989 when 12 independent candidates won the polls.

The 2009 general elections saw a whooping 3,831 independent candidates in the fray. Only nine, including former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and Jharkhand Assembly Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari, emerged victorious. There were 2,385 independent candidates in 2004 but only five of them had the last laugh.

Forfeiture of security deposit – which stands at Rs 25,000 – is not a deterrent. Last time, 86.4 per cent of independent candidates lost their money.

As per the Election Commission of India rules, if the candidate fails to get a minimum of one-sixth of the total valid votes polled, the deposit goes to the treasury.

In the first Lok Sabha elections in 1951-52, almost 40 per cent candidates – 745 out of 1874 – forfeited their deposits. Since then, almost all Lok Sabha elections witnessed northward trend of lost deposits. The peak came in the 11th Lok Sabha Elections in 1996, where 91 percent or 12688 out of 13952 candidates lost their deposits.

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