In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Mahasamund constituency in Chhattisgarh faced a peculiar problem. Chandu Lal Sahu the incumbent Member of Parliament of the BJP was trying to defend his constituency against the Congress leader and also the former chief minister of the state – Ajit Jogi.
Interestingly, Jogi was not the only one Sahu was fighting against but there was also a side battle being fought between Sahu and his 10 namesakes. There were 11 candidates with the name Chandu Lal Sahu or similar sounding names contesting for the same seat.
However, BJP’s Chandu Lal Sahu managed to retain his seat but with a very thin margin. Was this the namesake effect? Was it mere coincidence that so many candidates of the same name contested for the same seat?
Candidates with the same name contesting the same constituency are not uncommon in India. Even in the ongoing assembly elections, the candidates in more than 50 constituencies in five states – Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Mizoram – are fighting a side battle against namesakes.
Mahendra Singh Chouhan, the Congress candidate in the Narela constituency in Madhya Pradesh (MP), is fighting against sitting BJP MLA Vishvas Sarang, has two of his namesakes as independent candidates. One of them is Mahendra Singh, without the surname, while the other candidate has the exact same name as the Congress candidate with a tweaked spelling.
Similarly, Ajay Vishnoi (BJP) in Patan (MP), Archana Singh (BJP) and Prem Sai Sigh (Congress) in Chhatarpur (MP) and TS Baba (Congress) in Ambikapur (Chhattisgarh) are some of the few candidates fighting against their namesakes.
In a few cases, the battle of namesakes has become a two-way battle, where the candidates of both of the prominent political parties – the BJP and the Congress – are fighting against their respective namesakes.
For instance, in Surajgarh (Rajasthan), Subhash Poonia of BJP and Sharwan Kumar of Congress are fighting against namesakes. All the namesakes have contested as independent candidates.
Likewise, In Chandarpur (MP), Geetanjali Patel of BSP and Ram Kumar Yadav of Congress, in the Hanumangarh constituency (Rajasthan), Vinod Kumar of Congress, as well as Rampratap of BJP, are fighting a similar battle against their respective namesakes.
Interestingly, many of these namesake candidates have declared assets of a few thousand rupees. In some cases, the declared assets of these candidates are even less than the security deposit. In the case of assembly elections, each candidate is required to give a security deposit of Rs 10,000 (general candidate) and Rs 5,000 (SC and ST candidates) to the Election Commission of India. Also, any defeated candidate, who fails to secure more than one-sixth of the valid votes polled in the constituency will lose the security deposit.
In the Kawardha constituency (Chhattisgarh), Ashok Sahu is contesting for Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch against incumbent BJP MLA, also named Ashok Sahu. However, the candidate of Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch has declared total assets of only Rs 6,500, not enough even to fund the required security deposit.
In Chachoda (MP), Mamta, an independent candidate and a namesake of Mamta Meena of BJP, have declared total assets of Rs 6,109.
In another interesting case in the Narela constituency of MP, the namesake independent candidate Mahendra Chouhan is using the doctor title but has declared his educational qualification as only 8th Pass.
Is it mere coincidence? Or the opposition parties stage these candidates against their main rivals to cut votes?
Whatever the reason may be, such battles have definitely helped in some way, looking at the past few elections. Chandu Lal Sahu in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections managed to win, but at a very thin margin of 1,217 votes, while the other 10 namesakes together secured more than 70,000 votes. Just a few more votes to these namesakes would have changed the result.
But Thol Thirumavalavan was not as lucky as Chandu Lal Sahu. Thirumavalavan who contested the 2016 assembly election in Tamil Nadu representing Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi in the Kattumannarkoil constituency lost the election by mere 87 votes to AIDMK’s Murugumaran N Thirumavalavan’s namesake. The namesake candidate who contested independently managed to secure 289 votes, more than enough to play a spoilsport for Thirumavalavan.
On the contrary, there are also cases were the namesakes failed to make an impact. For instance, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the Bilaspur constituency (Chhattisgarh), there were five namesakes contesting, one of them was Lakhan Lal Sahu from BJP, who won the elections with a margin of 1.76 lakh votes, while other namesakes together could only secure mere 4,000 votes.
The results of the current assembly elections will be announced on December 11. It will be interesting to see if any of these namesakes manage to make any impact.