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Candidate Contesting Elections from Two Seats

  • Context (TOI I BS): Over the years, many recommendations have been made on restricting candidates from contesting elections from two seats.
  • The SC in 2023 dismissed a plea seeking direction that a candidate in an election cannot contest simultaneously from two constituencies.
  • In 20222, the Chief Election Commissioner asked the Ministry of Law & Justice to limit the number of seats a candidate can contest to one and implement one candidate in one constituency.
  • Section 33(7) of the RPA (Representation of the People Act), 1951: One candidate can contest from a maximum of two constituencies.
    • Prior to the insertion of clause 7 in Section 33 in 1996, candidates could contest from several seats, but later, one person could contest only from two seats.
  • Candidates must vacate one seat if they emerge victorious in both, as established by the RPA,1951.

Reasons for contesting from two Constituencies

  • The RPA allows a person to contest in more than one constituency and also contest anywhere in the country he/she wishes to.
  • Amending section 33 (7) of the RPA, 1951, may infringe on the rights of candidates contesting elections and curtail the choice of candidates for the polity.
  • The RPA, 1951 provision provides for wider choice for the polity and the candidate and is in line with the country’s democratic setup.
  • Many politicians contest from more than one seat –
    1. To divide the opponent’s vote,
    2. To profess their party’s power across the country and
    3. To cause a ripple effect in the region surrounding the constituencies in favour of the candidate’s party.
  • A leader can show that he/she has the support of the people across the country.
  • Parties often expect that having big names or well-liked leaders contest from more than one seat will convince more people to come out and vote.

Arguments against Twin Candidature

Waste of Resources

  • Campaigning and contesting in multiple constituencies can be a waste of Resources and Money, both for the candidate and the government.
    • After sacrificing one of the Constituencies, a by-election is immediately triggered, which again increases the burden on the Public Exchequer.

Voters Lose Interest

  • Repeated elections are not only unnecessary and costly, but they will also cause voters to lose interest in the electoral process.
    • Fewer voters will most likely turn out to vote in the by-election than in the first election a few days earlier.

Conflicts of Interest

  • Running in multiple constituencies can create conflicts of interest, as the candidate may not be able to devote equal time and attention to each of their constituencies.

Paradoxical Provisions

  • Section 33(7) of the RPA leads to a situation where it would be negated by another section of the same Act – specifically, Section 70.
  • While 33(7) allows candidates to contest from two seats, Section 70 bars candidates from representing two constituencies in the Lok Sabha/State Assembly.

Voter Confusion

  • Voters in different constituencies may be confused about which candidate is representing them or which candidate they should vote for.

Perception of Corruption

  • Running in multiple constituencies can raise questions about a candidate’s motivation and create the perception of corruption, as they may seek multiple seats to increase their chances of winning.

Threat to Democracy

  • Twin candidature can be seen as a threat to democracy, as it can undermine the principle of fair and equal representation.
  • The dictum of democracy is ‘one person, one vote’ and ‘one candidate, one constituency’.

Recommendations of the Election Commission

  • The Election Commission (EC) recommended amending Section 33(7) so as to allow one candidate to contest from only one seat.
    • It did so in 2004, 2010, 2016 and in 2018.
    • The GoI has opposed EC’s proposal to bar a candidate from contesting from two assembly or Parliamentary constituencies during elections.
    • In its 255th report, in 2015, the Law Commission agreed with the EC’s suggestion of one candidate for one seat.
  • A system should be devised where if a candidate wins in two constituencies, they will bear the financial burden of conducting a subsequent by-election in one of them
    • The amount would be Rs 5 lakh for a Vidhan Sabha election and Rs 10 lakh for an LS election.
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