Of the 1,145 candidates contesting the Punjab assembly elections, 92 have the same name as another contestant in their constituency.
Kulbir Singh of the Congress is contesting from Zira, a constituency in western Punjab. But he is not the only Kulbir Singh in the fray from that constituency. Three other independents named “Kulbir Singh” will also be on that ballot.
Voters in that constituency will also see four Gurpreet Singhs — one Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate and three independents.
A similar situation is in Batala, where sitting MLA Ashwani Sekhri will compete against independents Ashwani Kumar and Ashwani Kumar Shakri.
Zira and Batala are not the only constituencies in Punjab where similar names feature on the ballot. In 31 constituencies, there is at least one candidate who has a person with a similar name competing. Six of them had more than two of such instances.
Bathinda’s Rampura Phul is another interesting example. Fourteen candidates, but just 9 names. Candidates from the three key parties — Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party — all have an Independent with the same name fielded against them.
Fielding candidates with similar first names is often used to confuse voters, and this is not a new phenomenon.
In 2012, Shutrana, a reserved constituency bordering Haryana, had a similar trend. Congress candidate Nirmal Singh competed against two Independent candidates with the same name. The other two candidates collected votes totalling 1,155. The margin with which Congress’ Nirmal lost, was 772 votes.