February 12, 2018
12 months

In recent times, elections in India witnessed a steady increase in number of small candidates contesting polls. Discuss the reasons behind such an increase? Is this phenomenon healthy for a democracy? (200 words)

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IAS Parliament 11 months


·         Small Candidates are arbitrarily as those whose vote shares remain below 2% of the total vote.

·         The numbers of such candidates on the ballot has steadily increased for the past two decades.


·         Decreasing deposits cost – Increase in numbers most directly related to the decreasing cost of deposits for political candidates.

·         The cost of these deposits has been sharply decreasing since 1996, when the price of these deposits was last adjusted.

·         Weak regional parties – In a number of cases, small candidates are sincere, loyal supporters of regionally weak parties, which want to ensure their presence on the ballot.

·         Lack of intra-party democracy – The lack of intra-party democracy is in full display in the rather opaque nature of the ticket distribution system in most parties.

·         A remarkable number of small candidates are locally popular party workers who have been rejected by the hierarchy of their party.

·         Pre-campaign spending – Noted candidates usually organize events and spend a significant amount of funds on a “pre-campaign”.

·         Those who doesn’t get the tickets from their respective parties at the time of announcement may refuse to leave the race, which mechanically increases the number of candidates.

·         Rising cost of elections – Parties have a clear preference for rich, self-financing candidates.

·         Yet rich candidates are rarely popular among party workers.

·         This multiplies the chance that the discontented workers who have spent years dreaming of a run would contest either as an individual or contest through a small party.

Is this a healthy practice?

·         Increased contestation may suggest that an increasing number of citizens are willing to have their voice heard.

·         But, providing citizens with an ever-larger number of options may increase error in the polling booth, or even discourage some voters from turning out.

·         From a practical standpoint, it also leads to particularly hectic, and less readable, electoral campaigns.

·         Vote cutters – Small candidates are often suspected as “vote cutters” as they may be able to cut into some of the vote that would otherwise go to more competitive candidates and hence precipitate their defeat.

·         In a first-past-the-post electoral system, small candidates matter a great deal.

·         For example, in recent state elections (since 2012), small candidates pulled together a combined vote share that exceeded the difference between the winner and the first runner-up candidate.

·         This suggests that the proliferation of small candidates does affect the outcomes of elections.

·         In a relatively common scenario, small candidates are encouraged to run by candidates from established parties in the hope that their presence on the ballot will make a dent in the vote share of one of their competitors.

·         There exist, lot of possibilities for a dominant party to be engaged in bribing small candidates to get rid of election campaigns or to cross campaign.

·         We can understand from the above points that, some fraction of small candidates may have illegitimate or anti-democratic goals in mind and may be harmful for a democracy.

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