LS Polls: Over 99 independent candidates lost deposits since 1991


PTI, Apr 4, 2024, 5:50 PM IST

Representative image (Source: iStock)

New Delhi: As India heads to the 18th general election, data over the years show voters’ trust in independent candidates has been diminishing, with more than 99 per cent of independent candidates losing their deposits since 1991.

Data compiled by the Election Commission of India show that since independence, even as the number of independent candidates has remained high, numbers of those winning polls have come down from over six per cent in 1951 and eight per cent in 1957, to around 0.11 per cent in 2019.

An independent candidate is one who is not aligned with any recognised party.

In the first elections of 1951-52, 533 independent candidates had contested, and 37 of them won, around 6.90 per cent.

Election Commission regulations stipulate that candidates failing to secure a minimum of one-sixth of the total valid votes polled would have their deposits redirected to the treasury.

The security deposit amount was Rs 500 for general candidates and Rs 250 for candidates from SC/ST communities in 1951. The sum has since increased to Rs 25,000 and Rs 12,500 for general and SC/ST candidates.

In the 1957, 1,519 independent candidates fought the Lok Sabha election, with 42 of them winning it — around 8.7 per cent. However, even in these two elections, 67 per cent of the independent candidates had forfeited their deposits.

As India’s democracy evolved with several regional parties coming into existence over the years, the number of independent candidates who won kept going down.

In 1962, 20 independent candidates won, around 4.2 per cent of the total, while over 78 per cent lost their deposits.

In the 1984 polls, held soon after the death of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, 13 independent candidates won, a success rate of around 0.30 per cent, while over 96 per cent lost their deposits.

Political experts say the trend indicates voters’ do not show trust in independent candidates.

“Vaguely speaking, the kind of people who contest as independent are sometimes those who are denied tickets by a political party. There are also some who are hoisted by a party to cut votes of rivals … Some may have a motive, if they win they are in a bargaining position …” Maj Gen Anil Verma (retd), Head of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), said.

“However, they can’t make much difference, ultimately it’s the parties who call the shots, and people realise this,” he said.

Axis India Chairman Pradeep Gupta said independent candidates have become irrelevant because voters are now more well informed, and they realise who are the candidates who can fulfil their promises.

“In the last 20 years, the public has been giving decisive mandate in Lok Sabha elections. With the emergence of technology, every voter knows whoever he or she is voting for, what promises have been made by the candidate, and what are the expectations of the voter from the leader or the party …,” he said.

“Because of technology, aspirations have gone up. The expectations have gone up. Earlier people used to think that the candidate had promised something but it did not happen, now the phenomenon is that people observe who did what and where, and can analyse and form opinions,” he said.

“Because of this phenomenon the independent candidates have become largely irrelevant. Public thinks that what is the point of voting for them when they will not be able to do anything. These candidates are not in a position of bringing too much change in the lives of the voters barring few candidates who are supported by parties,” Gupta added.
In 2019, more than 8,000 independent candidates had fought polls, and only four won. Over 99.6 per cent of independent candidates lost their deposits.
In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, four independent candidates had won – Sumalatha Ambareesh from Mandya, who was backed by BJP and is likely to join the party, Navnit Rana from Amravati, who was at that time supported by the Congress-NCP combine, and recently joined the BJP, ex-ULFA commander Naba Kumar Sarania from Kokrajhar in Assam, and Mohanbhai Sanjibhai Delkar won Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
Delkar passed away in 2021, and his wife is now an MP from the seat from Shiv Sena (UBT).

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