In­de­pen­dents los­ing poll ground

DOWN­WARD TREND Their seat, vote share drops across the coun­try in Lok Sabha and state as­sem­bly elec­tions

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - NATION - Vi­j­dan Mo­ham­mad Kawoosa vi­j­dan.kawoosa@htlive.com

NEW DELHI: There is only one In­de­pen­dent mem­ber among the 222 elected to Kar­nataka’s leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly in last month’s as­sem­bly polls. This is the low­est since the state was formed over six decades ago. Kar­nataka had nine in­de­pen­dent mem­bers in the 2013 as­sem­bly. All of them lost their seats this time — eight to the three lead­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties and one to an­other In­de­pen­dent.

The fall in seat share is also re­flected in vote share. The com­bined vote share of all 1,129 In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates is 3.9%, the low­est ever recorded and half of the vote-share of In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates in the pre­vi­ous elec­tion, anal­y­sis of data from the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of In­dia (ECI) re­veals.The state’s third as­sem­bly elected in 1967 had the high­est num­ber of In­de­pen­dent leg­is­la­tors, 41. There were only 331 In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates in fray and they to­gether re­ceived over 28% of the votes polled. Over the years, the num­ber of In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates in­creased while their vote-share and the num­ber of win­ners de­creased.To be sure, Kar­nataka is not alone when it comes to de­clin­ing space for In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates. With po­lit­i­cal par­ties dom­i­nat­ing the na­tional and state elec­tions, po­lit­i­cal space for the In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates seems to the de­creas­ing across the coun­try, both in the Lok Sabha and state as­sem­blies.

Eleven of the present state as­sem­blies have the low­est seat­share of In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates they ever had, while elec­tions to 22 of the present state as­sem­blies recorded the low­est-ever vote share of In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates. The present Lok Sabha has only three in­de­pen­dent par- lia­men­tar­i­ans. It is the sec­ond low­est num­ber ever elected to the house. The low­est num­ber was one in the house elected in 1991.The num­ber has been fluc­tu­at­ing since then but has largely re­mained much lower com­pared to the elec­tions to the house held be­fore 1991. The high­est num­ber of In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates elected to the lower house was 42 in the coun­try’s sec­ond Lok Sabha elected in 1957. Elec­tion to it also recorded the high­est vote-share of In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates, 19.3%.

“Your chances of get­ting elected is al­most nil if you con­test as an In­de­pen­dent,” said Jagdeep Ch­hokar, founder of the As­so­ci­a­tion for Demo­cratic Re­forms (ADR), an elec­tion watch­dog group. Ch­hokar said it was be­cause of the large gap be­tween the re­sources that an In­de­pen­dent can­di­date and the po­lit­i­cal par­ties can put into elec­tions that the num­ber of In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates con­test­ing and get­ting elected has been go­ing down, in­creas­ing the hold of po­lit­i­cal par­ties on the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. “On a tech­ni­cal is­sue, for can­di­dates there’s a limit on how much they can spend al­though all of them vi­o­late the limit and they lie in the elec­tion ex­pen­di­ture af­fi­davits … but there’s of­fi­cially or legally no limit on the ex­pen­di­ture a po­lit­i­cal party can make on an elec­tion,” he said.

“So the dice is very heav­ily weighted against In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates and in favour of can­di­dates put up by po­lit­i­cal par­ties,” Ch­hokar said, who sees democrati­sa­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties as a way out.

For can­di­dates there’s a limit on how much they can spend (on elec­tions) al­though all of them vi­o­late the limit and they lie in the elec­tion ex­pen­di­ture af­fi­davits … but there’s of­fi­cially or legally no limit on the ex­pen­di­ture a po­lit­i­cal party can make on an elec­tion.

JAGDEEP CH­HOKAR, Founder of ADR

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