The leaders who achieved independence for India spent long years in jail; many a politician today ought to, justly, be in jail. The former were imprisoned for fighting a just cause against an alien rule; the latter are no better than common criminals – petty thieves, gangsters, murderers and rapists. For politics today has become not the last but the first resort of the scoundrel.
An important reason for the criminalization of politics is the very system of power that operates in India. Also, there is little transparency in the exercise of power by the State. With the assumption of so much power, the scope for misusing that power also increases.
The economy of India was till recently, and to some extent even now is, controlled by the state, often arbitrarily. Anyone wanting to start a business or run an industry or be gainfully self – employed had to seek sate patronage in the form of licenses and permits as well as protection from official harassment. Politicians of a sort found a lucrative opportunity in brokering that state patronage. Not for them the area of politics that deals with the genuine needs and interests of the populace.
Brokering state patronage by necessity creates a set of favorites around a politician: permits are awarded to such people irrespective of merit, even as illegal activities are allowed to flourish by keeping the police clear of them. Official authority is misused in both cases. And once such corrupt practices mar the political field, the way is clear of the entry of criminals. To buy votes, to force people to vote for a certain person or party, to ensure the victory of a certain candidate, to terrorize opposition to submission – the unscrupulous politician engages gangsters and ‘gonads’ gradually, these criminals themselves enter our legislatures legitimately, democratically and made the law of the land. What an irony!
Misuse of state power and criminalization of politics can be reduced and eliminated only if people participate on a larger scale in running the affairs of the state. Power must e decentralized, rules and regulations must be transparent, and there must be greater involvement of people in the government running through citizens’ committees, cooperatives etc..