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Decoding verdict: Why candidates lost their deposits

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-05-2014 Karthik Shashidhar

In elections to the 16th Lok Sabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidates lost their deposits in 62 constituencies. Candidates of the Indian National Congress (INC) lost their deposits in a staggering 179 constituencies. But is there a story data on lost deposits can tell us?

A candidate loses his/her security deposits if he/she gets less than one sixth of all valid votes. The deposit is nominal, `10,000 (for SC/ST candidates, it’s half the amount), and this measure is intended to be a deterrent against frivolous candidates. For example, Kaka Joginder Singh “Dhartipakad” has contested and lost more than 300 elections during his lifetime. Down south, Hottepaksha (literally “Stomach Party”) Rangaswamy contested and lost 86 elections. Rangaswamy finally “retired” after the security deposit was increased from `500 to `10,000, making it unaffordable for him to contest.

In the 2014 general elections, 7,502 of the 8,748 candidates who contested lost their deposits. To put it another way, only 1,246 candidates did not lose their deposits these elections, an average of 2.29 candidates per seat.

In six constituencies, Tripura East and West, Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, Satara in Maharashtra, Chatra in Jharkhand and Faridabad in Haryana, all candidates except the winner lost their deposits.

In 372 other constituencies, only the winner and runner-up retained their deposits, while in 160 others, only three candidates retained their deposits. There were only four constituencies, Ladakh, Ludhiana, Raiganj and Maldaha Dakshin in West Bengal, where four candidates retained their deposits. The party that put up the maximum number of candidates in these elections was, rather surprisingly, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which put up candidates in 501 constituencies; 445 of them lost their deposit. Then, there was the similarly named Bahujan Mukti Party, which put up candidates in 230 seats; all lost their deposits. There were a total of 14 parties which put up 20 or more candidates, of whom not a single candidate managed to keep their deposits. Table 1 gives the list of these parties. It is unlikely too many readers would have heard of many of these parties.

Next, we will look at parties whose candidates have lost deposits in the largest proportion of seats. For this purpose, we will only count those parties which have retained their deposits in at least one seat. Table 2 gives the list of parties more than half of whose candidates have lost their deposits in these elections. (we have only considered parties that have put up 10 or more candidates for this analysis).

While we still have “non-mainstream” parties such as the CPI (ML) (L) and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh in this list, there are also some familiar names.

Ninetysix percent of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates, for example, lost their deposits, while 36 of 39 of the Forward Bloc’s candidates lost their deposits.

An observant reader might notice that there are a number of regional parties in the above list, and the number of seats they have contested is more than the total number of seats in the state/region they are strong in. It is possible that contesting in “non core” regions has brought down the deposit retention ratios of these parties. Thus, it makes sense that we look at lost deposits on a state-wise basis, which is what we will do next. We will do this party wise.

Given that the BSP lost deposits in 445 out of the 501 seats (Table 3) it contested in, it makes sense to look at the seats in which it retained deposits. It is interesting to note that of the 56 constituencies where it retained its deposits, 51 are in its home state Uttar Pradesh. The party was once strong in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, but it managed to hold on to its deposit in only two constituencies across the two states. Perhaps it is time to revisit the hypothesis that the BSP is a national party.

The red bars (Table 3) tell the story of the INC in these elections. Thanks to its mishandling of the Andhra Pradesh division, the party lost deposits in all 25 constituencies of Andhra Pradesh (excluding Telangana) that it contested in. As if that wasn’t enough, the party duly lost deposits in two seats in Telangana also (Malkajgiri and Hyderabad).

Then, in Tamil Nadu, where the Congress went alone for the first time in 15 years, the party lost its deposit in all but one seat. Congress candidates losing their deposits in Tamil Nadu included high profile candidates such as Karti Chidambaram (son of former finance minister P. Chidambaram), former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and Tamil Nadu Congress president E.V.K.S. Elangovan. The Congress was also thrashed in Uttar Pradesh, with party candidates losing their deposits in 59 of the 67 seats contested. Congress candidates who lost their deposits in the state include actors Raj Babbar and Nagma, cricketer Mohammed Kaif, and former Union ministers Salman Khurshid, Jitin Prasada and Beni Prasad Verma.

Interestingly, four of the seven Congress candidates in Delhi lost their deposits; this in a state the Congress had swept in 2009.

Like the BSP, AAP candidates lost their deposits in so many constituencies that it makes more sense to examine where they managed to hold on to their deposits. AAP candidates came second in all seven seats in Delhi, thus saving their deposits (Table 3). The party also put up a strong performance in Punjab, winning four seats (its only presence in the Parliament) and saving deposits in another four. Outside of these two states, there were only four AAP candidates who managed to save their deposits, and this included Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi and actor Gul Panag in Chandigarh. The AAP’s performance in these elections (reasonably strong performance in two states and a virtual wipeout elsewhere) serves a good lesson to new political formations in India that it makes sense to consolidate before going all out for a national footprint.

Fifty-seven out of 78 Samajwadi Party candidates in Uttar Pradesh saved their deposits, and they were the only candidates from the party who managed to do so (Table 3). All 42 of Trinamool Congress’s candidates in West Bengal saved their deposits, while only one of the party’s 88 candidates outside that state managed to do the same. All candidates of the Janata Dal (United) outside Bihar, 55, lost their deposits, as did all Shiv Sena candidates, 38, outside Maharashtra.

Once again, this serves as a warning to regional parties going for reckless national expansion. As if to illustrate this point, only two parties put up 10 or more candidates of whom none lost their deposits. Both of these are regional parties, which decided to stick to their backyards—All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which put up 40 candidates in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, and the Biju Janata Dal which put up 21 candidates in Odisha. The former won 37 of the seats; the latter, 20.

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