Of the many examples of erratic behaviour that political players have shown during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, candidates’ choice of their constituencies stands out prominently.
The criterion does not seem to be just winnability, which is dubious in any case because winning an election is not an end in itself but just appointment by the electorate to serve the people. For example, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is contesting from Uttar Pradesh for the sole reason that the state has the highest number of Lok Sabha seats and the BJP believes his persona could bring about a swing in the party’s fortunes.
In other words, Mr Modi is expected to make not only himself but many of his party colleagues victorious. What is even more remarkable in this election is that personal animus is driving candidates who have been known for propriety. If LK Advani wishes to opt out of Gandhinagar, what can one put that down to except his current unhappiness with Mr Modi?
And if Mr Advani chooses Bhopal, what can it be due to except his liking for MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, whose performance he rates higher than Mr Modi’s. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, who will contest against Mr Modi in Varanasi, is from Haryana and has been chief minister of Delhi.
Does he wish to be a giant-killer again by contesting against Mr Modi after having defeated Sheila Dikshit in the Delhi assembly elections? It is seldom that candidates display any knowledge of the constituencies they are supposed to represent. And how the MP local area development fund of `5 crore a year is spent becomes immediately questionable.
True, the Constitution allows any Indian to contest from any part of the country. And this feature of the Constitution became politically significant when Indira Gandhi contested from Medak, Andhra Pradesh, in addition to Rae Bareli in 1980. The reason was that she lost in Rae Bareli in 1977 and subsequently left nothing to chance. Still this was something of an aberration. Until the early 1990s it was always the norm that people contested from places they belonged to.
And when they did not, those elections mattered little, like an over-the-hill Krishna Menon contesting from a seat in Bombay in 1967. Gundu Rao as Karnataka chief minister made himself a laughing stock in 1983 when he lost both the seats he contested in the assembly elections after having said in a magazine interview: “I can win anywhere in the state.”
A Lok Sabha member, being a representative of the people, has to stay in close touch with the people and nurse his constituency. So it is imperative that before a candidate asks for a change of constituency, she or he should explain why.