Election Commission Supports Petition Demanding 'One Candidate, One Seat'

Politicians from across party lines have been using the Representation of People's Act provision that allows candidates to contest from two seats simultaneously.

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Wednesday supported a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to bar candidates from contesting from more than one seat in polls.

Currently, under the Representation of People’s Act, a candidate is allowed to contest from two constituencies simultaneously during a Lok Sabha or assembly election. BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has filed a public interest litigation asking to change the provision.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud heard the matter. The court is awaiting the Centre’s response on the matter.

“The commission is of the view that the law should be amended to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time,” Hindustan Times has quoted the Election Commission’s affidavit as saying.

The EC told the court that it had proposed an amendment to Section 33(7) of the Representation of People’s Act in July 2004, as one of the 22 “urgent electoral reforms” suggested to a Rajya Sabha parliamentary standing committee, The Hindu reported.

The affidavit also suggested that the legislature amend the law such that if a person wins from two seats, s/he will have to foot the bill of the by-poll that will necessarily take place, since s/he will have to resign from one of the constituencies.

The EC also made reference to a Law Commission report which had recommended the same change. The Law Commission had cited expenditure, time, election fatigue and harassment caused to voters as reasons behind the recommendation.

The court will next hear the case in July.

It is not uncommon for candidates to choose to contest from two constituencies in Indian elections. While the Congress and BJP are yet to release candidates’ lists for the Karnataka assembly elections this year, Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy recently declared that he would be contesting from two seats – Ramanagara (which he holds at the moment) and Channapatna.

Candidates choosing to contest from two seats has also been seen across party lines. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi contested from both Vadodara (Gujarat) and Varanasi (UP). He won from both, and vacated the Vadodara seat. In the 1999 Lok Sabha, when Sonia Gandhi was Congress party president, she contested from both Bellary (Karnataka) and Amethi (UP). In 2014, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav contested from Manipuri and Azamgarh in UP.

In the 2004 general elections, Lalu Prasad fought from Madhepura and Chhapra constituencies in Bihar.

In the 2018 Meghalaya assembly elections, former Congress chief minister Mukul Sangma contested from two seats – Ampati and Songsak. While his party lost the elections, the leader won from both constituencies.

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. However, this practice has been criticised several times in the past, especially for the burden it puts on the exchequer.