Forty-nine-year-old Jamaluddin, who runs an electrical shop in Okhla Vihar, will contest the Delhi elections as an Independent for the fourth consecutive time.
Despite next to no chance of winning, nearly 300 Independents like Mr. Jamaluddin -– more than the number of contestants from the top three parties – will contest again in the Delhi assembly elections on December 4.
They form nearly a third of the 900 candidates whose nominations were declared valid by the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer on Tuesday evening.
The Hindu’s analysis of Election Commission data shows that just 10 Independents have won seats in Delhi since the first assembly election in 1951. Yet 2,314 people have contested as Independents in the state over the last 60 years.
In the 2008 Assembly elections, 358 independents contested but only one was elected. The record in 2003 was no better: 284 independents were in the fray and again only one managed to win.
This time 296 Independents are contesting, according to the state CEO’s office. Okhla in the south and Tri Nagar in the north-west have the largest number of Independent candidates contesting.
Political scientist Milan Vaishnav, an Associate at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said while some Independents are paid to run and others run as ‘dummy’ candidates, some are running to catch the eye of more established parties.
“They may not have the stuff to get a ticket but if they prove themselves, it is a down payment for the future. If they can do reasonably well with no party backing, political parties calculate they can do even better with party support,” Mr. Vaishnav told The Hindu.
There is also an element of irrationality, Mr. Vaishnav said.“This is true in all elections – people believe they can win even though the odds are overwhelmingly against them,” he said.
One of the possible reasons why candidates prefer contesting as Independents is that fighting on a party ticket is just too expensive.
Ask Lila Devi (51), who will take on none other than Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and who has contested both as an Independent and as a party candidate. Ms. Lila contested in 2008 on a JD (U) ticket.
She said contesting on a party ticket is a huge strain on the pocket as political parties make candidates spend a lot of personal money for electioneering.
High-profile constituencies tend to attract more Independents. There are 10 Independents contesting for the New Delhi seat out of a total of 25 candidates.
Most Independents have little respect for party candidates. “Nobody is interested in addressing the problems here such as acute water shortage, poor sewerage system or that this area has just one government dispensary,” Mr. Jamaluddin said of Okhla Vihar MLA Asif Mohammad Khan, who recently switched to the Congress from the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
“Everybody knows the actual state of the constituency under the sitting MLA. For instance, there is a requirement for more graveyards in this Muslim-dominated neighbourhood. This has not been taken care of so far,”he added.
Ms. Lila echoed Mr. Jamaluddin. “Even though Gole Market has been Sheila Dikshit’s stronghold for the last 15 years, people do not have drinking water and nor do they get rations on time,” she said.