do we have by-elections, in the first place? In many instances,
a candidate contests from more than one constituency and/or
for two different legislative houses - the State Assembly
and Lok Sabha. Under the current law a candidate has to
vacate one of the seats within 10 days, necessitating a
bye-election. Occasionally, a sitting legislator may resign
with an intention to either to establish her/his hold over
the electorate or to change party affiliation. Shri VP Singh
did just that when he resigned as the Finance Minister and
MP during the 8th Lok Sabha and later, contested as opposition
candidate from Allahabad and won. Some times, by-elections
become inevitable following the death or incapacitation
of a sitting legislator.
bye-election leads to heightened tensions, political populism,
increasing polarization and diversion of attention away
from the broader issues of governance. In this light, the
Election Commission's recent proposal to bar a candidate
from contesting in more than one constituency, or to seek
reimbursement of the expenditure (from the candidate) for
holding this bye-election appears perfectly reasonable and
fair. The taxpayers' money should be better utilized than
for satisfying the whims of ambitious politicians seeking
to maximize their bargaining power.
is also a deeper, structural issue here: our first-past-the-post
(FPTP) electoral system sometimes throws up unexpected and
embarrassing results when even bada netas of parties lose
elections based on local convergence of factors like caste,
money and muscle power. That is why they attempt to dilute
their risk via multiple candidacies. Legitimate answer to
this real problem lies in adopting an alternative and better
electoral system based on the principle of proportional
representation. Once parties get legislators in proportion
to their voting percentage, there will be no need for multiple
candidacies and by-elections.
also witnesses frequent mid-term elections to its state
and national legislatures. Such elections, conducted almost
every year, vitiate the political climate and disrupt the
rhythm of the administration. Can we prevent the atrophy
of administration and paralysis of governance that invariably
accompany unscheduled dissolution of our legislatures?
answer lies in the clear separation of legislative and executive
powers at the state level. Under such an arrangement, the
head of government is elected directly for a fixed term
(of five years, say) and her/his government coexists with
a legislature elected for the same term (five years). The
legislature cannot bring down the elected executive, and
conversely, the executive cannot shorten the term of legislature.
Therefore, the governments survive for a definite period,
the administrative process is not interrupted and unnecessary
mid-term elections are avoided.
instance, in the USA, such an arrangement has made their
elections extremely well ordered. Their president is elected
once in four years in the month of November, on the Tuesday
following the first Monday. Even the national legislators
(for the House of Representatives and Senate), half the
governors, state legislatures and local governments are
all elected on fixed dates. Unscheduled vacancies to legislative
or executive offices are filled by means other than by-elections
or by a clearly specified line of succession inbuilt in
the political process.
are and should be only a means for democratic governance,
not an end in themselves. We do require to adopt alternatives
to the present system to avoid by-polls.
then, let the candidates or political parties pay for the
cost of by-elections brought about by their own volition!