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Namesakes threaten poll process

In Kerala, people who bear a similar name to candidates are in big demand. Namesakes, better known as ‘shadow candidates,’ are giving sleepless nights to the real candidates. Ramesh Babu reports.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2009 00:48 IST
Ramesh Babu

What is in a name? A lot, lament candidates who sweat it out in the sweltering heat of Kerala.

In Kerala, people who bear a similar name to candidates are in big demand. Namesakes, better known as ‘shadow candidates,’ are giving sleepless nights to the real candidates.

Diplomat-turned politician Shashi Tharoor (Congress) is yet to file his nomination in Thiruvananthapuram but his opponents have already identified at least three ‘Shashis’ that they could field against him.

In Kottayam, UDF candidate Jose K Mani (Kerala Congress-Mani) is facing another Jose K. Mani.

Many such shadow candidates admit they have been taken care of till the elections are over. They usually disappear after filing their nominations.

In the last Lok Sabha election Congress candidate from Alapuzha, V.M. Sudheeran was defeated by a narrow margin of 1,000-odd votes. His shadow candidate V.S. Sudheeran had managed 8,832 votes. In the last assembly elections at least five candidates fell by wayside due to these namesake candidates.

Political parties have no qualms in encouraging them and blame each other for this unhealthy trend. In the last election, N.N Krishandas’s (CPM) name double had garnered 7,000-odd votes in Palakkad.

“It is a disturbing trend. These candidates are really subverting the mandate. It is high time political parties and the Election Commission takes note of this,” said former MP VM Sudheeran.

Poll officials say they are helpless. “If a candidate carries similar name, we have provisions to make slight changes to avoid the confusion. We can’t prevent his/her right to contest,” said state chief electoral officer Nalini Netto.

A public interest litigation praying to check this unhealthy practice is pending before the Kerala High Court. “It is an infringement on the right to vote without being misled or deceived. But nobody is taking it seriously,” lamented John Verghese, a high court lawyer.