A police officer observes voters entering a polling station during the first phase of voting for national elections in Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh, India | T. NARAYAN/Bloomberg
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New Delhi: 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 Rs 25,000 ($361) for general candidates and Rs 12,500 for contestants from the underprivileged category.

More than 8 in 10 contestants forfeited their deposit money in 2014 | Bloomberg

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 per cent 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 per cent of candidates fielded by prominent national parties also met the same fate.

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.

89% of BSP candidates lost deposit in 2014 | Bloomberg

What to watch:

  • BJP President Amit Shah to address public meetings in Gujarat on Monday Muralidhar Rao
  • BJP national general-secretary, to meet press in Tamil Nadu on Monday Congress President
  • Rahul Gandhi to address rally in Gujarat on Monday
  • Congress promises to provide Rs 72,000 annually to poor families
  • India’s communist party to halt sale of state companies if it wins elections. – Bloomberg.

Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.

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