Winning doesn’t matter for the vast majority of candidates contesting elections in the world’s largest democracy, where thousands get so few votes that they forfeit their enrollment deposits.
So, why run? Some rebels contest the polls if they’ve been sidelined by their parties, others try to thwart the chances of similarly-named rivals, while still others fight in protest of the political environment. Since 1952, more than three-quarters of aspirants on average have lost their deposits — currently 25,000 rupees ($361) for general candidates and 12,500 rupees for contestants from the underprivileged category.
Given the sums involved, the Election Commission’s desire to weed out non-serious candidates hasn’t worked despite periodic increases by the agency. In the 2014 elections, almost 85 percent of the 8,251 hopefuls fared so miserably that the poll-conducting body held on to their deposits. While independents figure prominently in this list, 50 percent of candidates fielded by prominent national parties also met the same fate.
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According to the Election Commission of India’s rules, every hopeful must make a security deposit to become eligible to contest. The deposit is forfeited if a candidate isn’t elected and fails to get a minimum of one-sixth of the total valid votes polled.
Over the years, as the number of contestants have increased, the Election Commission’s revenue from lost deposits has risen as well. The agency depends on allocations from the federal government to conduct elections for the lower house of parliament or Lok Sabha.