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August 6, 1999
Record 444 persons barred from contesting Nalgonda polls
Shireen in Hyderabad
Nalgonda district in Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of debarring a record number of persons from contesting the upcoming elections -- 444.
In 1996 the district had made the headlines when 480 candidates contested the polls from the Nalgonda Lok Sabha constituency.
Now the Election Commission of India has debarred as many as 444 persons, mostly independent candidates in Nalgonda district from contesting the elections to the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assembly in September.
Quoting the Election Commission orders, Nalgonda district collector and district electoral officer Neelam Sawhney told a meeting of political representatives convened by her on Thursday that these persons have been disqualified for their failure to submit the details of election expenditure incurred by them during the earlier elections. They have been debarred from contesting the polls till February 8, 2002 AD.
Of the 444 persons debarred by the Election Commission, 436 had contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1996 and the remaining eight had fought the state assembly elections in 1994.
A record number of 537 candidates, including 66 women, had filed their nominations from Nalgonda constituency in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. While 35 nominations were rejected, 22 candidates withdrew from the contest. As many as 480 candidates, including 60 women, remained in the poll fray. Among the contestants were 306 persons belonging to scheduled castes and 80 to scheduled tribes. Only six candidates of recognised parties were in the fray, the rest were independents.
Most of these independents were sponsored by the Jala Sadhana Samithi, which spearheaded the agitation for early implementation of the Srisailam Left Bank Canal project and drinking water supply scheme for the flouride-affected villages in Nalgonda district.
Jala Sadhana activists contested the polls to mark their protest against the state government's indifference to their demands. As the Election Commission had difficulty in allotting poll symbols to the record number of candidates, elections in the constituency were postponed by a month and rescheduled for May 27, 1996. The counting went on for a couple of days. The Communist Party of India candidate B Dharma Biksham won the elections.
Following the experience in Nalgonda, the Election Commission later changed the rules for independent candidates and increased the security deposit ten-fold to Rs 5,000 for scheduled caste/scheduled tribe candidates and to Rs 10,000 for the nominees from other castes and communities.
This reduced the number of candidates all over the country; in Nalgonda, there were just 12 candidates for the 1998 Lok Sabha polls, including four nominees of recognised parties.
The district electoral authorities have also submitted a report to the Election Commission seeking disqualification of two independent candidates who contested for the Nalgonda Lok Sabha seat in 1998 polls.
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