In India’s electoral democratic exercise ‘By-Election’ is a customary ritual to be performed. The Election Commission of India is bestowed with this task. And, Election Commission is very successful in fulfilling this exercise. Usually, by-elections to various positions at different levels take place due to resignation or death of a sitting elected representative. When such a situation arises, as per the Indian Constitution’s enshrined mandate ‘by-election’ should be conducted within six months of a vacancy arising, subject to the Election Commission’s satisfaction that the law and order position is conducive for such move.
Like every election ‘by-election’ should also be a space for a Democratic contest by different aspiring political parties and independent candidates. This spirit is usually practised with due diligence. But, break to this democratic ‘by-election’ exercise in full-fledged form started to record and become a tradition, unfortunately, as per my observation in the State of Andhra Pradesh (including the present day Telangana). Due to wide-spread Naxalite violence and their successful attempts in massacre and assassinations of elected representatives, this proposal to make subsequent ‘by-election’ as unanimous was mooted by the then towering Indian National Congress (INC) leader Dr Y S Rajashekara Reddy (YSR).
Dr YSR put forwarded this proposal as the Leader of the Opposition in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly / as President of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC). When he mooted this proposal, the ruling party in the State of Andhra Pradesh was Telugu Desam Party (TDP) under the Chief Ministership of Nara Chandra Babu Naidu.
Primarily, YSR put forwarded this proposal after witnessing cold-blooded killings of elected representatives like Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA), etc. YSR used to say that if the next by-election were made unanimous, then it would be an asserting indication towards healthy democratic aspiration in a resounding manner to the undemocratic Naxalite elements, which were resorting to the undemocratic practice of killing elected representatives. This proposal of YSR got a positive acceptance, unfortunately, as some of the mainstream political parties accepted such a ‘formulated principle.’ As per this ‘tailored undemocratic principle’ various unanimous elections were held at different levels for quite a sustained duration. In fact, this practice has been in continuation. One of the ‘adjacent undemocratic principle elements’ proposed by YSR was to field a candidate in the ‘by-election’ from the assassinated leader’s family and the same representing political party.
As per the above principle only when the then Lok Sabha Speaker G M C Balayogi died in helicopter crash, his wife Vijaya Kumari was made to contest the by-election. G M C Balayogi won as Member of Parliament (MP) from Amalapuram constituency, representing the TDP. The INC and a few mainstream political parties did not field their candidates in this by-election. It’s interesting to note here that G M C Balayogi did not die in any Naxal attack or assignation bid. But, as per the YSR above projected ‘undemocratic principle’ in every constituency when a sitting elected representative dies either accidentally or naturally, the next by-election started to see popular contestation as some of the mainstream political parties began to decline fielding their candidates.
This YSR’s mooted wide prevailed principle, even today, is giving particular sort of legitimacy in the parliamentary electoral practices to a kind of patronage to a few political families to emerge and recognize as political feudal of individual electoral constituencies. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much criticism against this ‘electoral constituency feudal family’s recognition’ based on democratic principles. This saddens me then and now alike.