Sandeep Singh (name changed on request), a 38-year-old small-time businessman, contested the 2008 assembly elections as an independent candidate against a prominent Congress leader, who is now a Delhi minister.
Singh, who was a known face, started his election campaign amid much fanfare. Two days into his campaign, he sat in favour of the candidate of another party and sought votes for him. Ultimately, Singh got about 500-odd votes and ended up forfeiting his deposit.
Singh’s is not an isolated case. Many among the independent candidates who contested Delhi Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Delhi were dummy or 'non-serious' candidates who filed their nominations but later sat in favour of some other candidate.
But there were several serious candidates too who thought they stood a good chance to win or at least dent the vote share of other candidates.
Of the 875 candidates who contested the assembly polls in 2008, 711 forfeited their deposits. There were 358 independent candidates in the fray. While one candidate (Bharat Singh, Najafgarh constituency) won, only two independents managed to save their deposits.
The candidates fielded by registered but unrecognised parties fared even worse. Of the 196 candidates, 193 lost their deposits and collectively got 2.55% of the vote share. The state parties fielded 76 candidates all of whom forfeited their security deposits.
Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of Association for Democratic Reforms - a non-political group aiming at government and electoral reforms - said there are many reasons why candidates contested as independents despite knowing that they would fail to make any dent.
“Some are fielded by political parties as nuisance candidates while others believe they would be offered money to sit in favour of other candidates. Some want to get prominence in the society,” Chhokar said.
Delhi electoral officer Vijay Dev said the election commission was concerned about this trend.
“Candidates are allowed to spend `14 lakh for campaigning. We have been told that often other prominent candidates use the infrastructure of non-serious candidates for their own campaign. The election commission this time will closely monitor how these candidates use their resources,” he said.