Elections, India, Lok Sabha, Stories

LS Elections Data: Number of Polling Stations Crossed 1 million, and More Than 70% Constituencies Had More Than 10 Contestants in 2019


All the datasets related to the Lok Sabha Elections (from the 1st  to the 17th Lok Sabha Elections – 1951 to 2019) are available on Dataful.

Data from the past Lok Sabha elections reveals that almost 85% of the contestants lost their deposits in both 2014 & 2019. Further, the number of polling stations crossed the 1 million mark in 2019. 

In the first part of the series of stories on elections, we looked at some of the trends related to Independent candidates such as their growth, vote share, success rate and how a negligible number of independent candidates retain the deposits. 

In this second part, the primary focus is on trends related to overall contestants.

Less than 15% of all candidates retained deposits in the last three general elections.

As mentioned in the first part, failing to even secure a deposit in elections is the least desirable outcome for any candidate in the running. It also raises doubts about the commitment of those contesting the elections. The increase in the number of candidates running for elections is closely linked to the proliferation of political parties. From 53 parties in the 1951 elections to 673 parties in the 2019 elections, there has been a significant increase in the number of political parties contesting Lok Sabha elections. This increase became particularly evident after the 2009 elections, with 363 parties participating, which then increased to 673 in 2019, marking an almost 85% increase within the span of two Lok Sabha election cycles. This rapid expansion has led to a decrease in the voting share of individual candidates, resulting in many of them forfeiting their security deposits.

In the 2019 elections, the total number of contestants stood at 8054, out of which 6923 candidates (86%) lost their deposits. This represents the highest percentage since the 1970s, except for the 91% recorded in 1996. Similarly high percentages of candidates losing their deposits were also observed in the 2014 and 2009 general elections, where almost 85% of candidates failed to secure their deposits. In contrast, the three elections preceding 2009 saw around 75% of candidates losing their deposits. 

2019 saw 185 Candidates in a single Constituency, Second only to 480 during 1996 elections.

Given the dynamics of India’s electoral system, where the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) method renders even a single vote influential in determining outcomes, there’s been a notable surge in the number of candidates competing in the elections. While electoral pluralism reflects the vitality of democracy, excessive candidate proliferation risks diluting its benefits. Political parties often deploy “clone candidates” to confuse voters, with many contenders joining the race not with serious intent to win but to sway results.

An analysis of the average number of candidates per constituency in general elections reveals a consistent increase from 1977 to 1996, rising from 5 to 26 candidates. Following the 1996 elections, deposit requirements were raised, resulting in a slight decline in the average number of candidates to 10 until the 2004 elections. Subsequently, despite increases in deposit amounts post-2009, the average number of candidates per constituency has remained relatively steady. Regarding the maximum number of candidates in a single constituency, the 2019 elections witnessed 185 candidates, the second-highest figure recorded after the 480 candidates in the 1996 elections.

70% of the constituencies had more than 10 candidates in 2019, up from 28% in 1998.

The prevalence of numerous candidates has become a common aspect of Indian elections. The average number of candidates in a constituency doesn’t fully capture the severity of the issue as the distribution of candidates across constituencies in India varies significantly. Such large numbers of political contestants create a burden on the Election Commission of India in terms of resources, inevitably resulting in difficulty in managing the elections. Alternatively, proponents of contestant pluralism contend that the impact of contestants should not solely be determined by electoral wins. Instead, attention should be given to the electoral issues they advocate for.

Nevertheless, an analysis of the Indian electoral data reveals a steady increase in the proportion of constituencies with more than ten candidates, from 25.1% in 1980 to 82.5% in 1996. After the increase in the amount of security deposit in 1996, this proportion fell to 26.2% in the 1999 General elections. However, despite the rise in security deposits again in 2009, in recent Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and 2019, the percentage of constituencies with more than ten candidates rose again to 79.2% and 70.7% respectively.

Number of Polling Stations Crossed 1 million for first time in 2019.

The Handbook of Returning Officers provides guidelines for the setting up of polling stations. Polling stations are established to cover specific and stable polling areas. Typically, a polling station caters to a clearly delineated area, accommodating no more than 1500 eligible voters. The arrangement of polling stations is such that voters generally do not have to travel more than two kilometres to cast their votes, considering the terrain and ease of access for voters. Additionally, no polling station should be located within 200 metres of political party offices.

Data on the number of polling stations show that the 2019 elections were the first when the total polling stations crossed the 1 million mark, increasing by 12% from 0.9 million during the 2014 elections. Usually, with the growing population, the number of polling stations is bound to increase. Only in the 2004 and 1991 elections, the number of polling stations saw a minor decline as compared to the 1999 and 1989 elections.

Further, the average number of electors per polling station is usually aimed to be below 1000, now revised to 1500 post the introduction of EVMs. In 2019, the average number of electors per polling station stood at 877, down from 898 in 2014.


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