CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has had its share of interesting independent candidates such as Kuppalji Devadoss called ‘Chillar Raja’ who paid his deposit money in coins and Padmarajan, an independent candidate, who holds the record of losing 179 times in elections. Although independents keep contesting in big numbers for their own reasons, the ground reality suggests that voters do not prefer them to political candidates.
The overall percentage of votes by the 542 independents in Tamil Nadu in the recent general election was an abysmal 0.51 per cent out of the state’s total voter turnout 71.87 per cent. The independents did not just lose their deposit in all 38 constituencies but also they polled lesser than NOTA in most constituencies.
The Karur constituency saw the highest number of independent candidates with 31, followed by 28 in Chennai South and 26 in Thoothukudi.
However, the average percentage of votes won by them in Karur was 0.19 per cent out of 78.96 per cent votes polled, and in Chennai South, it was 0.15 out of 57.43 per cent and in Thoothukudi, it was 0.42 out of 69.41 per cent of votes polled.
The only constituencies in which the independents polled more than NOTA were Thanjavur (2.28 per cent), Sivagangai (0.87 per cent) and Nagapattinam (1.17 percent). These constituencies were also the only ones in which the total average vote percentage of independents crossed the one-per-cent mark.
Among other independents, the candidates who represented the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam led by TTV Dhinakaran polled fairly well, with some reaching the double-digit mark. But as a whole, they could only garner about five per cent votes, losing deposits in all constituencies.
M Radha from the Chennai South constituency, the first transgender to contest the Lok Sabha polls, won just 1042 votes with vote percentage of 0.09.
Taking notice of poor performance of independent candidates, the Law Commission in its 255th report in 2015 recommended to prevent independent candidates from contesting elections as “they are either not serious or contest elections just to confuse the voters.”
The classic case of political parties using independent candidates as agents to confuse voters was seen in the 2016 Assembly polls when VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan lost from Kattumannarkoil constituency by 87 votes. It was reported that T Thirumavalavan, an independent candidate, managed to get 289 votes, which led to the VCK leader’s defeat.
In India, since 1957, only 226 independents have successfully won the LS polls while about 50,000 have contested polls. Their average success rate remains at 0.50 per cent. Whereas in Tamil Nadu, four independents won in 1952, three in 1957, and one in 1998. Since then they have drawn a blank. However, that has not deterred new ones from contesting.