Reports say Rahul Gandhi may contest from three seats in Lok Sabha elections, but is that possible?

As per Representation of the People Act, 1951, no candidate can contest from more than 2 constituencies in an election.

On January 22nd, Times Now ran a story saying that Rahul Gandhi is unsure of winning his Amethi seat in upcoming Lok Sabha elections. And due to that, the Congress president is considering to contest from as many as three Lok Sabha constituencies. The report says that apart from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi may also contest from Nanded in Maharashtra and Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath is current MP from Chhindwara, from which he will soon resign to get elected as an MLA to remain the CM of the state as per law.

Today Times of India and Republic also ran the story, quoting reports. Republic termed it as a big political scoop, despite the fact that it was reported by Times Now yesterday itself. The reports say that Nanded in Maharashtra is considered a safe seat for the Congress, and Rahul Gandhi contesting from there could also have spillover effect in other nearby constituencies in the Marathwada region. Similarly, Chhindwara in MP is also a Congress bastion.

But there is a big problem with the news of Rahul Gandhi contesting from three Lok Sabha seats in the coming elections, which is, the law does not permit it. As per the section 33(7) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, no candidate can contest from more than 2 Parliamentary constituencies in an election. The same rule applies for Assembly elections too.

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The section says:

33(7) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (6) or in any other provisions of this Act, a person shall not be nominated as a candidate for election. –

(a) in the case of a general election to the House of the People (whether or not held simultaneously from all Parliamentary constituencies), from more than two Parliamentary constituencies;

(b) in the case of a general election to the Legislative Assembly of a State (whether or not held simultaneously from all Assembly constituencies), from more than two Assembly constituencies in that State;

Therefore, according to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, Rahul Gandhi cannot contest from three Parliamentary constituencies as the news reports are claiming.

In fact, there is a petition filed in the Supreme Court to amend the section 33(7) of the Act to limit the maximum number of seats a candidate can contest to one. The PIL was filed by lawyer and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay in the year 2017. The Election Commission of India also supports this petition, and the Commission had told the court that it had already submitted proposals with the central government to make the amendment in the law. When one candidate contests from two seats and both seats are won by that candidate, the candidate has to resign from any one seat. This necessitates re-election to that constituency, which means EC and the administration has to spend a huge amount of money on conducting the extra poll. The ECI had also suggested an alternate solution that if the same candidate wins two seats, that candidate should be asked to bear the cost of byelection that would be required after that candidate vacates one seat.

Therefore, the reports that Rahul Gandhi is considering contesting from three seats can’t be true. If the Congress president is really worried about competition from Smriti Irani in Amethi, he will have to contest from another seat apart from Amethi.

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