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The EC has suggested that the law be amended to prevent candidates from contesting on multiple seats, a stratagem commonly used by political leaders for reasons that vary from seeking insurance against any shock defeat to signaling their attention to more than one region in an electoral contest.
The list of leaders who contested from more than one seat is long and includes Indira Gandhi, Biju Patnaik and N T Rama Rao and present-day leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court, the Commission said Section 33(7) of the Representation of People Act be amended to restrict a politician to contest an election from only one seat. The affidavit was filed in compliance of the apex court’s order seeking its response on a PIL challenging validity of the provision.
“When a candidate contests from two seats, it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats should he win both. This, apart from the consequent unavoidable financial burden on the public exchequer and the manpower and other resources for holding byelection against the resultant vacancy, would be an injustice to the voters of the constituency which the candidate is quitting from,” the Commission said.
The commission said in case the present provision is retained then there should be an express provision in law requiring a person, contesting and winning from two seats, to bear the cost of the byelection after he quits one constituency.
“The Election Commission proposed amendment of Section 33(7) in the year 2004 to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time. However, in case the existing provisions are to be retained, a candidate contesting from two seats should bear the cost of the byelection to the seat that contestant decides to vacate in the event of him/her winning both seats. The amount in such an event could be Rs 5 lakh for state assembly and Rs 10 lakh for general election,” the affidavit said.