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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

dir="ltr">Under the current law a candidate can contest from two constituencies, but has to vacate one of the seats within ten days - necessitating a by-election. The Election Commission’s (EC) proposal to bar a candidate from contesting in more than one constituency, or seek reimbursement of the expenditure for holding the by-election is perfectly reasonable and fair.

The merit of this proposal could be enhanced by not limiting it to only vacation of a seat upon being elected to two seats in the same House but extending it to occasions when:





    An incumbent MLA contests for Lok Sabha, and on election vacates the Assembly seat.





    A candidate may contest for both Assembly and Lok Sabha when elections are held simultaneously.





    An elected member vacates a seat and seeks reelection in the ensuing by-election only for ego gratification, and to establish his hold over the electorate, or to change party affiliation.



In all these cases, the politician is clearly seeking to maximize his political bargaining power or further career prospects, and the people should not be made to pay for the capriciousness or political insurance or greed of politicians.

The state should be spared the expense in one of two ways. First, apart from barring multiple contests, an incumbent in a House must be barred from contesting another election; a candidate vacating a seat in a House must be barred from contesting in a by-election for the same House, or another House; and a candidate must be banned from contesting for two different Houses simultaneously. Second, if any candidate does contest for a second office, or vacates a seat and contests in a by-election, he must be made to pay to the state exchequer the cost of by-election.

However, this proposal does not address the core issue. Parties do need their prominent leaders to be elected to a House, and our First-Past-The-Post system sometimes throws up unexpected and embarrassing results based on local factors of caste, money and muscle power. Remember the way Dr Manmohan Singh lost from South Delhi in 1999. But there can be a legitimate answer to this real problem - switching over to an alternative and better system like Proportional Representation. Until then, we must make candidates or parties pay the cost of by-elections caused by vacation of seats.

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