The Supreme Court's nod to the expulsion of 11 MPs - 10 from the Lok Sabha - in the cash-for-query scam will result in yet another round of bypolls. Just about half way through its term, the 543-member Lok Sabha has already seen 32 vacancies of MPs through resignation, expulsion or death.
Filling these through bypolls costs taxpayers crores of rupees and keeps the election apparatus busy throughout the year.
Manabendra Shah, the 85-year-old MP from Tehri in Uttaranchal died last week creating another vacancy, while Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu quit in December 2006 after he was pronounced guilty by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a case of road rage killing.
While Sidhu has approached the apex court for permission to contest the Amritsar by-election, Congress President Sonia Gandhi quit on March 23 last year over the office-of-profit issue only to return with a thumping victory in May.
TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao quit in September to demand a separate Telengana state and returned as the Lok Sabha MP within two months. While 13 LS members have resigned so far, nine have died and 10 have been expelled.
Unofficial estimates put the cost of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections at Rs 1,150 crores. Election Commission of India sources say mobilising the election apparatus for individual bypolls in constituencies costs more that it does for general elections.
"Democracy comes at a cost," says KJ Rao, former advisor to the ECI. "Apart from the public expenditure, the amount of black money that candidates pump into the election process is phenomenal. It seems to be increasing with every election," he adds.
Four existing chief ministers of states – Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Shivraj Singh Chouhan - were members of the current Lok Sabha but resigned their Parliamentary seats to become CMs.
Sushil Kumar Modi quit to assume power as Kumar's deputy in Bihar. The resignations also triggered resignations in the assemblies to pave way for their election to the state legislature.
The state assemblies saw 35 assembly bypolls in the year 2005-06 alone.
Old and ailing politicians continue to fight elections and get elected, term after term. Tehri MP Shah who died on January 5 had been bedridden for a long time. The oldest MP elected to the fourteenth Lok Sabha, 94-year-old Ramachandra Veerappa from Bidar in Karnataka died in July 2004, shortly after being elected to the house.
Former ECI advisor Rao feels a national debate is necessary on fixing a retirement age for parliamentarians. The average age of the present Lok Sabha members is 55.