One Candidate One Constituency

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) asked the Ministry of Law & Justice put a limit on the seats from which a candidate can contest to just one.
  • It had also suggested a ban on exit polls and opinion polls and said there should be some restriction on conducting and disseminating the results of opinion polls right from declaration of first notification of an election till the completion of the election in all its phases.

What is the Background?

  • According to Section 33(7) of the RPA (Representation of the People Act), 1951, one candidate can contest from a maximum of two constituencies.
  • Until 1996 one candidate was allowed to contest from many constituencies, and then RPA was amended to set the limit at two constituencies only.
  • Since 1951, many politicians have used this factor to contest from more than one seat – sometimes to divide the opponent’s vote, sometimes to profess their party’s power across the country, sometimes to cause a ripple effect in the region surrounding the constituencies in favour of the candidate’s party and almost all parties have exploited Section 33(7).

Issues-

  • One Act Negates another-
  • Since no Candidate can represent two Constituencies, the idea of this system appears to be illogical and sarcastic.
  • The irony behind Section 33(7) of the RPA is that it creates a situation where it would be negated by another section of the same Act, precisely, Section 70.
  • While 33(7) permits candidates to contest from two seats, Section 70 restrict candidates from representing two constituencies in the Lok Sabha/State Assembly.
  • By-election Strains Public Exchequer- After sacrificing one of the Constituencies, automatically a by-election is triggered immediately after the general election.
  • For instance, in 2014, after PM Narendra Modi won both Vadodara and Varanasi, he vacated his seat in Vadodara, forcing a by-election there.
  • Lakhs of taxpayer rupees need to expend because of a by-election that could have been easily avoided.
  • The financial burden was even heavier before 1994, when candidates could contest from even 03 seats.
  • Voters Lose Interest-
  • Repeated elections are not only inessential and costly, but they will also cause voters to lose interest in the electoral process.
  • Invariably, the by-election would most likely see fewer voters turn out to vote when compared to the first election a few days earlier.

Points in Favour of Contesting two Seats-

  • The system of one candidate, two constituencies provides a “wider choice to the polity and candidates”.
  • Doing away with the provision could cause a violation of the rights of the candidates contesting elections as well as abridge choice of candidates to the polity.

What are the Recommendations of the Election Commission?

  • The Election Commission suggested amending Section 33(7) so as to permit one candidate to contest from only one seat. It did so in 2004, 2010, 2016 and in 2018.
  • A system should be developed wherein if a candidate contested from two constituencies and won both, then he or she would bear the financial burden of conducting the subsequent by-election in one of the constituencies.
  • The amount would be Rs five lakh for a Vidhan Sabha election and Rs ten lakh for a Lok Sabha election.

Way Forward- “One person, one vote” is the dictum that has been a founding principle of Indian democracy. Perhaps it is time to reform and expand that principle to “One person, one vote; one candidate, one constituency.

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