So far, 64k LS candidates lost deposits

Rs 14.57 crore went into government coffers in 2014 alone
Last Updated 18 April 2019, 09:21 IST

Over 64,000 (76.88%) candidates who contested the Lok Sabha elections from 1951 have lost their security deposit for failing to secure at least one-sixth of the votes polled in the constituencies where they fought the polls.

While 748 candidates lost their deposits in the first general elections, in the 2014 polls, the number was 7,000.

The increase in the deposit amount too followed suit— rising from Rs 500 for general candidates and Rs 250 for candidates from SC/ST communities in 1951 to Rs 25,000 and Rs 12,500 for general and SC/ST candidates in 2014.

The exchequer gained Rs 4.02 lakh in 1951 and by 2014 Rs 14.57 crore reached the government coffers, all because of forfeiture of security deposits.

In the past 16 Lok Sabha elections, 64,157 out of 83,446 candidates had lost their security deposits owing to their failure to secure a vote more than one-sixth of votes polled in a particular constituency.

Those candidates who contested two seats and could not secure the necessary votes lost deposit in both the seats.

While the first three elections saw less than 50% candidates losing deposits, the highest percentage of deposit losers was in 1991 when 86.36% (7,486) of 8,668 candidates lost their security deposit.

The lowest was in 1957 polls when only 23.09% (496 of 2,148) candidates lost the money.

In 2009, it was 84.62% (6,829 of 8070) and last elections it was 84.83%.

Only once, it had crossed the 90% mark— 12,688 (90.94%) out of 13,952 lost their deposits in 1996. This was the same year which saw the highest number of candidates contesting the Lok Sabha polls.

The question of surging number of candidates was a matter of discussion from the first general elections with the then chief election commissioners thinking whether majority of the those contesting understood the seriousness attached to the elections.

They felt that many entered the contest without seriousness that the elections deserved, while some did it to “strike a bargain” with their opponents and others wanted to be in the “also ran” category.

Country's first chief election commissioner, Sukumar Sen, wrote about the 1951 and 1957 elections that “too many” independents rushed into elections “without any intention of going through the contest seriously or without any reasonable prospect” of securing enough votes to secure their deposits.

He wrote after the 1957 elections: "such multiplicity confuses the voters, materially inconveniences the more serious candidates and unnecessarily increases the administrative difficulties in conducting the elections."

While analysing the 1962 elections, then chief election commissioner K V K Sundaram wrote in 1965 that the "really serious and effective contestants were two or three, or at the most four" in constituencies while all the rest came within the category of "also ran".

He sarcastically remarked that it only helped to "increase the length of the ballot paper, confusing the electors and swelling the expenses and electioneering difficulties of the main candidates.”

"At the parliamentary elections, as well as the Assembly elections, four out of every five independent candidates forfeited their security deposit, whereas their success was of the order of one in twenty four in the former case and one in 16 in the latter," Sundaram wrote.

He also noted that in many constituencies, they "only stood with a view to striking a bargain" with one or other of the serious candidates and then withdrawing from the contest for a consideration, or with a view to splitting the votes of a small section of the people on caste or communal grounds.

"These are obviously tendencies which militate against fair democratic elections and should be eliminated," he added.

About the 1971 polls, then chief election commissioner S P Sen-Varma said that the large number of independents losing their deposits "clearly shows that the voters do not want independent candidates at all".

"The number of candidates set up by the political parties who forfeited their deposits is also fairly large. This clearly supports the view which has already been expressed, namely, that unless political parties take special care and caution in selecting candidates who possess at least in some measure the qualities which the people expect of Members of Parliament, the electorate will not hesitate to punish them in the shape of forfeiture of their deposits. The political parties should take a lesson from this in the matter of selecting candidates in a general election," he had then said.

(Published 22 March 2019, 11:16 IST)

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