Candidates with criminal background – Not Untouchable For Political Parties

Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

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The highest court recently rued the fact the legislature has not acted to curb criminality in politics.

Before each elections, various political parties and candidates make tall promises. Most such promises and assurances remain unfulfilled and now the common people have started taking such promises with a pinch of salt.

Even claims by political parties that candidates with criminal background or those facing criminal charges would not be given tickets, give way to the argument that “winnability” was the main criteria. This stance is true of all major political parties across the board without any exception.

criminalAs per data analysed from affidavits filed by the candidates, some of them are facing trial in heinous criminal cases like murders and dacoity. The claim of some of the candidates may be true that the criminal cases slapped against them were politically motivated or that the charges were not serious enough.

In certain cases, causing damage to public property during protests can also result in filing of criminal charges. However there can be no excuse for fielding candidates with serious or heinous criminal charges.

A detailed analysis by election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) recently pointed out that nearly 25 per cent candidates contesting elections in Uttar Pradesh are facing criminal charges.

So far affidavits have been filed for only the first three phases of the elections in the state but the trend of one fourth candidates having criminal basis almost similar in all the three phases.

The other four states going for assembly elections are no better. As per ADR and Punjab Election Watch, candidates with criminal cases have risen by almost three times in Punjab with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fielding the highest number of such nominees.

The two organisations had prepared the report after analysing the self-sworn affidavits of 1,276 candidates of the total 1,304 in fray.

The report, which was released by ADR Trustee Jaskirat Singh with Parvinder Singh Kittna and Harpreet Singh of Punjab Election Watch, pointed out that the figure of candidates facing criminal charges had this time shot up to 25 per cent nine percent in the 2017 elections.

Among the 315 candidates with such a background, 65 belong to the SAD, 58 to AAP, 27 to BJP, 16 to Congress, four to SAD (Sanyukt) and three each to BSP and Punjab Lok Congress (PLC).

The report said that at least 218 candidates face cases with serious offences. Of them, 60 belong to the SAD, 27 to AAP, 15 to BJP, nine to Congress and three each SAD (Sanyukt) and BSP and two PLC.

At least 15 candidates have declared cases related to crime against women, including two of rape. Four candidates have cases related to murder, while 33 have attempt-to-murder charges against them. Nearly half the constituencies in the state are in the “red alert” category. Such constituencies are those where three or more contestants face criminal cases.

This growing trend of those being fielded with criminal background is worrying. It is not just true of states, the same trend is witnessed in Parliament.

According to another report of the Association of Democratic Reforms, a total of 363 MPs and MLAs face criminal charges that, in case of conviction, will lead to their disqualification under the Representation of People Act.

The same report said 39 ministers at the Centre and in states have also declared criminal offences that are included in Section 8 of the Representation of People Act on disqualification.

The Association and the National Election Watch had analysed the affidavits of 542 Lok Sabha members and 1,953 MLAs from 2019 to 2021. Out of the 2,495 MPs and MLAs, 363 (15 per cent) have declared that charges have been framed against them by courts for offences listed in the Act. Among them, 296 are MLAs and 67 are MPs.

Among parties, the BJP has the highest number of such MPs or MLAs at 83, followed by the Congress at 47 and TMC at 25, the report pointed out and that 24 sitting Lok Sabha members have a total of 43 criminal cases pending against them and 111 sitting MLAs have a total of 315 criminal cases pending against them for 10 years or more.

Unfortunately, the various institutions have failed to control this menace. The highest court had been expressing itself against criminality in politics but to little effect. It recently rued the fact the legislature has not acted to curb criminality in politics.

Even the Election Commission of India has been shunning any responsibility. Political parties are themselves to be blamed for the situation. Perhaps the voters alone can send out a strong signal by rejecting such leaders.

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Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.

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