Section 33 of the representation of the people’s act allows a contest from two seats. If a neta wins both, one seat will have to be vacated and fresh elections will be held. Up untill 1996, even this rule did not exist. A candidate could contest more than two seats. An amendment to the RP Act restricted contest from two seats in ’96.
The usual activity around elections have begun. The usual rallies, the usual bickering, the usual orchestrated tiff in TV studios – even the usual twitter tirade.
There is another thing that has become usual now – the practise of netas contesting from two seats.
The most recent example is Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Amid the extremely animated debates on his confidence levels of winning Amethi, Rahul moves southwards and embraces the “safe” seat of Wayanad.
Enough has been debated in the political circles about Rahul’s “confidence” – or the lack of it.
I now want to extend the argument which all political stakeholders will find inconvenient. This will extend beyond a comparison between Modi’s Varanasi-Vadodara model and Rahul’s Amethi-Wayanad model.
The argument is simple – why don’t we have a simple rule that forbids 2 seat contests? You remove the option and its misuse will not take place.
A simple answer to the question WHY or WHAT IS THE NEED will be the cost of conducting a by election. Why should we expect the tax payer to pay for the ‘under-confidence’ or ‘appeasement’ of a politician.
First, a look at the rules – and a brief history.
Among the famous examples of multi seat contest were that of Atal Behari Vajpayee. In the year 1957, he contested from Balrampur, Mathura and Lucknow. Devi Lal in 1991 contested from Sikar, Rohtak and Ferozepur. Down south too Telegu icon NTR contested the Gudivada, Hindupur and Nalagonda assembly seats simultaenously in 1985.
Now are we supposed to feel nice about what happened in 1996 or question what continues to happen in 2019? Why can India not opt for One Neta One Seat?
Well, the election commission tried – way back in 2004.
The election commission’s proposal said candidates must bear the by eletion cost. This proposal was refused by the then government. The Law commission too in the past has proposed a one seat restriction but it is yet to be accepted.
A Supreme Court hearing too is on in a similar case.
The problem here, like most things is political will. If there is a tool available, why will the political class not exploit it? All major parties are guilty.
2014 Modi from Varanasi and Vadodara, Former PM Vajpayee from Vidisha and Lucknow in 1991, Former PM Indira Gandhi from Medak and Rae Bareli in 1980, BJP founder LK Advni from New Delhi and Gandhi Nagar in 1991, Sonia Gandhi from Bellary and Amethi in 1999, lalu Prasad Yadav from Madhepura and Chhapra in 2004 and Saran and Patliputra in 2009 and Mainpuri and Azagarh from SP Patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2014.
Can we afford this electoral flambouyance? That too at the cost of the taxpayer?
BJP extends the argument to One Nation One Poll. Many in the party feel that the imeplementation of One Neta One Seat basis arguments of saving money is similar to their demands of simultaneous polls for all legilative assemblies and parliament in one go. It saves cost.
The Congress calls this idea noble but wouldn’t go as far as implementing this change. Regional satraps too are beneficiaries of the 2 seats culture. They feel it acts as a force multiplier. Take for instance the arguments to explain Modi’s Vadodara-Varanasi model. BJP says this helped consolidate the voters both in Gujarat and eastern UP. Honest truth – Modi had to give up Vadodara.
And now for the most cogent of all arguments – cost.
The entire polling exercise in 2019 will cost our country Rs 50,000 crore. This is a 40 percent jump from the 2014 elections. India will spend an estimated $ 8 per voter. The bitter truth is that 60 percent of India earns less than $ 3 a day.
Elections are essential. But let us make democracy a little less cruel.