LS bypolls: pointless exercise

The Election Commission’s justification of its decision to hold byelections to three Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka has not satisfied those who have questioned the need for these elections. The commission has announced byelections to the Mandya, Bellary and Shimoga Lok Sabha seats, to be held along with bypolls to two assembly constituencies, on November 9. The Lok Sabha seats became vacant because the MPs who represented them resigned after getting elected to the state assembly in May. The commission has said that the byelections have to be held because the vacancies occurred more than one year before the expiry of the term of the Lok Sabha on June 3, 2019. It also said that they have to be held within six months of the occurrence of the vacancies and maintained that the decision was in accordance with the law. 

The fact remains that the MPs who get elected from these seats will not have a tenure of even six months in the Lok Sabha. They will attend just two sessions of the House. They will have a still shorter term if the House is dissolved before the expiry of its term. The MPs will have to be paid pension for life even if their tenure is short. It is estimated that each of the byelections would cost about Rs 8 crore to the exchequer. This money will go waste if the newly elected MPs have only a few months of tenure. Much more money will be spent by parties and candidates during the campaign. Though there is a spending limit of Rs 75 lakh, the expenditure is known to run into crores. Campaigning also involves the work of thousands of people, including party workers, supporters and others. This, too, will be lost labour. 

No political party wanted these byelections and they were surprised by the announcement. The Congress has asked why byelections are not held in Andhra Pradesh where five MPs of the YSR Congress resigned in June. The commission’s explanation is that there is no need to hold byelections in those seats because the remaining term of the Lok Sabha is less than one year after the resignations came into effect. There is a demand to cancel the byelection announcement in Karnataka but that may not be possible. If the electoral law mandates that byelections have to be held even in such situations, the possibility of amending the law should be examined. Perhaps an amendment should be brought in making holding bypolls unnecessary if the winning MP’s tenure is going to be less than, say, six months. Political parties will need to arrive at a consensus on this matter.  

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LS bypolls: pointless exercise

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