In most general elections held in independent India more than half the candidates who file in their nomination and contest are unable to even save their deposits at the end of the day.
Instead of this low success rate dissuading less number of candidates trying their luck, the percentage of people who throw their hat into the electoral ring has been steadily growing over the years.
This clearly shows that the objective of barring frivolous candidature by fixing a deposit each candidate has to pay at the time of nomination, which is forfeited if the candidate is unable to secure at least one sixth of the total vote, has not acted as a sufficient deterrent.
Interestingly the attraction to contest the election is so high that even after the Election Commission of India hiked the deposit fee from the paltry Rs.500 (since 1951) to Rs.10,000 in 1996 for general candidates , it hardly made any dent in the number of candidates opting for elections.
In general election of 1951 , the total number of contesting candidates was 1874 of which 745 candidates lost their deposits (39.75 per cent), in 1957 it was marginally down to 32.52 percent with 494 candidates losing their deposits of the 1519 contesting candidates.
By 1984 general elections the number of candidates forfeiting their deposits had gone up to 80.25 per cent . Of the total number of 5312 candidates 4263 lost their deposits.
The highest number of deposit forfeiters were seen during the general elections of 1996 when 90.94 per cent of candidates lost their deposits. Twelve thousand six hundred and eighty eight candidates lost their deposits of thirteen thousand nine hundred and fifty two in fray.
What prompts such a large number of candidates to file nominations? Sociology Professor at JNU, Dipankar Gupta says, "In earlier days getting an out of turn telephone connection was what prompted many to file nomination to contest elections. Even today I feel good proportion of candidates may be looking for whatever privileges they may get as contestants."
"There are many 'ego centric' people who file nomination for every election from Gymkhana club to Parliament. Others who are in the fray as they look at politics with 'dreamy lenses'," says Prof. Gupta.
Many a times these people are also set up by a party candidate just to cut into his opponent's vote bank. In some cases people with names similar to the main candidates are also fielded conveniently as dummy candidates to confuse the voters, he added.