More can be Less: Hyper Plurality of Candidates, the Rationality of Electoral Choice and Need for Electoral Reform in India
A large number of candidates have become a regular feature of Indian elections. Given the regulatory concerns the problem has evoked, the paper reviews the process of candidate entry in select developed countries. The review reveals the presence of diverse approaches, ruling out the necessity for extreme options like debarring fringe candidates – a course suggested by several Indian expert groups. Among various policy options, India had largely relied on electoral deposit. Our results suggest that an increase in deposit had a significant negative impact on candidate entry in India. However, for an effective deterrence, India needs to continue to keep deposits at a very high level compared to the current international benchmark, discriminating political participation of genuinely underprivileged groups. In contrast, the current level of signature requirement, a relatively unused policy tool in India, was found to be too low and could be easily increased further in order to be effective. We argue that given the high variation and lack of stability in candidate structure across regions and over time, a local approach on signature requirement -- as in the US -- could be an effective deterrent in India. Accordingly, we suggest that the Election Commission of India (ECI) should not only have the power to determine the deposit before each election, it should also have the power to change the minimum signature requirement across constituencies (subject to some standard checks and balances).
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