How to Contest Elections as an Independent Candidate ?
Common citizens contesting elections and surfacing as an alternative to the established political parties is a growing phenomenon that saw its emergence in the 1980s. Since then, there has been a huge rise in the number of independent candidates who tried to fill in the void that the big political parties couldn’t. Often candidates decide to contest elections alone since they don’t find any political party aligned to their political beliefs.
Eligibility Criteria for Independent Candidates to Contest Elections
Whether the independent candidate wants to contest the Lok Sabha elections or the Assembly elections, he has to meet the pre-defined eligibility criterion that’s applicable to any other candidate. Besides meeting the age requirement (25 years) and other parameters, the independent candidate has to ensure that he has at least ten voters from the constituency who can sign his nomination paper as proposers.
Under the Representation of the People Act 1951, this is mandatory for independent candidates and those candidates who belong to unrecognised political parties. The law is little stricter for the independent candidates since their counterparts from recognised political parties need to have only one proposer for their nomination.
Allotment of Symbols to Independent Candidates
The candidate contesting as independent and the ones sponsored by a registered unrecognised political party are allowed to choose three free symbols listed by the Election Commission. Following which, they have to name them in order of preference and mention it in their nomination papers. Preferences indicated in the nomination papers are taken into account and it’s the Returning officer who finally assesses whether there’s any other contender for the same symbol and then takes the call based on the rules declared in Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
Election Commission’s Take on Independent Candidates
The Election Commission has recommended in the past that only those independent candidates who have a previous record of winning local election should be allowed to contest for Parliamentary or Assembly elections. The commission had also recommended doubling the security deposits for independent candidates to put a check on their proliferation and prevent malpractices in the election process because of their influx. It had also suggested doubling the security deposit every year for those independent candidates who continue to contest elections despite repeated failures.
The Commission, in its report, had clearly advocated for barring independent candidates from contesting elections for a minimum of 6 years if they fail to secure at least five percent of the total number of votes cast in their constituencies. It was also suggested that the independent candidate who loses election three times consecutively should be “permanently debarred” from contesting election.
Although some political bigwigs address independent candidates as “spoilers” and some are of the opinion that the vote cast for an independent candidate is wasted, there are others who believe that these independents “feel more responsibility” toward their constituency than the politicians from the bigger parties and hence they should be given a chance to represent people.