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Contesting elections from two seats: Is it justified?
Currently in India, a candidate is allowed to contest from two seats in the same elections. Generally, this provision is used by candidates to ensure their acceptability or to ensure their victory.

In case of winning from both the seats, the government bears the cost of re-election from the resigned seat as well as it proves as an extra load and effort for officials and citizens.

So, what was the real reason/vision behind allowing this because each of the other act or law in the constitution is somehow justifiable?

It is not understood as to why and how these provisions were kept at the time of framing of Constitution. But why is this so?

First, competing from two constituencies gives them a back-up plan in case they fail to win from one of their two constituencies. Conversely, winning from both the constituencies enhances the credibility of their victory and projects them as efficient leaders. But when the expenses are being met from taxpayers' money, boasting about a victory seldom holds ground with the masses.

The Election Commission has once again asked the government to amend the laws to bar people from contesting from two seats or, at least as a deterrent, a candidate who vacates a seat necessitating a bypoll should be asked to deposit an appropriate amount in state coffers.

The Representation of the People Act, 1951 allows a person to contest a general election or by-elections or biennial elections from a maximum of two constituencies but the candidate can retain only one. 

Before a 1996 amendment in the electoral laws, there was no bar on the number of seats a person could contest. 

In a compendium of electoral reforms proposed by the poll panel to the Law Ministry, released earlier this month, the Commission said it has proposed amendment to section 33(7) of the Act. 

In its 2004 proposal, the EC had said that if the law cannot be changed to bar people from contesting on more than one seat, then the winning candidate should bear the cost of the by-election to the seat he or she vacates. But it is natural that when a candidate contests from two seats, it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats if he wins both. 

The amount then proposed was Rs 5 lakh for state assembly and state legislative council elections and Rs 10 lakh for Lok Sabha polls. 

"This, apart from the consequent unavoidable financial burden on the public exchequer and the manpower and other resources for holding by-election against the resultant vacancy, would be an injustice to the voters of the constituency which the candidate is quitting from," the compendium read.  It said the amount it recommended in 2004 should be increased to "something more appropriate for serving as deterrence to the candidates". 

In its report on electoral reforms a couple of years back, the then Law Commission headed by Justice A P Shah (Retd) had also recommended barring candidates from contesting polls from more than one seat. 

Now, the Election Commission has recommended that there should be appropriate increase in the amount of recovery recommended in 2004 as it feels that with the introduction of this law, the practice of contesting from two seats will be discouraged.

Akhilesh Yadav (Ferozabad and Kannauj in 2009), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Kannauj and Sambhal in 1999), Lalu Prasad Yadav (Chappra and Madhepura in 2004), Sonia Gandhi (Amethi and Bellary in 1999) and even Indira Gandhi (Rae Bareily and Medak in 1980) have all made use of this provision sanctioned by the law. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had vacated his Vadodara seat and retained the Varanasi seat after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President, too had contested from two seats. In Assembly elections also, the known figures prefer to contest from two seats.

Now the question arises, in case a candidate loses the election from one seat, how far it is justified to give him the responsibility of important post in the government? Secondly, is it correct to spend a huge amount on bypoll for the second vacated seat from the taxpayers' money? Thus, the recovery of some amount on account of by-poll should not be termed as groundless.

Anyhow, I am sure, in the coming years the courts will deliberate upon this issue and declare such pieces of legislation unconstitutional, especially since it is the people who are put to trouble to meet the expenses of the by-elections. 

However, until then, all we can do is deliberate and talk about it until it becomes an issue potent enough to draw the attention of those in charge. 

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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