India, the largest democratic country and also home to the fair and regular elections.
Elections aim at providing the power to select the one by whom we want to be governed. Looking the present statistics, are we really choosing the adroit body to govern us or the candidates are besmirch to the constitution, the elections, and the Indian freedom struggle?
The country is struggling hard to make its mark as the emerging leader in terms of economy and development but the blemish to its own image is the gigantic number of abet and aberrant leaders having the henious charges of rape, theft, dacoity, murder, extortion etc.
On 28th August 1997, the Election Commissioner Krishnamurthy made a startling annunciation. According to him, of 1, 37,752 candidates who had contested the General Election to the Lok Sabha in 1996, nearly 1500 had criminal records.
UP hits the list with 520 such candidates, succeeded by Bihar with the count of 350. The eleventh Lok Sabha reportedly had 40 members, who had criminal background, 700 MLA's out of 4722 in the country then were involved in crimi¬nal cases and trials were pending against them in 25 states and 2 union territories.
In the special session of Lok Sabha, on the auspicious occasion of completion of 50 years of Independence, the house passed a resolution on 31st August 1997 saying that, "more especially, all political parties shall undertake all such steps that will attain the objective of ridding of our polity of criminalization or its influence". But it just remained a resolution without implication
If we quote some notorious leaders, the picture will decipher a colorfully tainted image of not just one party but several parties -
Mohammad Sahabuddin was elected to four successive terms in the Indian Parliament from 1996-2008 from Siwan constituency Bihar on RJD ticket. In 1996, Sahabuddin was named as a Minister of State for the Home Ministry in the H.D. Deve Gowda government. He is currently serving a life sentence for kidnapping with intent to murder and as many as 34 cases of serious crime are pending against him.
Mukhtar Ansari won the Mau seat in the Uttar Pradesh Elections, 2007 as an Independent while lodged initially at Ghazipur jail.
Arun Gawli is one of the most notorious criminal turned politicians who is based in Mumbai. With his operations center at Dagdi Chawl in Bayculla he now enjoys the position of MLA. However, he has not been convicted of any crimes but has spent almost ten years in prison
Shibu Soren is another politician who was the chief minister of Jharkhand and was found guilty of murder of his secretary.
Raja Bhaiya is a SP leader who has royal ancestry; however he is a criminal and has spent considerable amount of time in Jail under the POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities) Act.
Atiq Ahmad was a member of Lok Sabha from the Phulpur Lok Sabha Constituency in Uttar Pradesh. He is currently in prison facing trial in 35 criminal cases including several cases of murder. In the Indian general elections, 2009, he was allowed to contest in election since he is yet to be convicted in any case.
The radical cause of increasing criminalisation of politics is nexus of muscle power, money power and politics. Criminalisation of politics is actually a mysterious enigma.
The statutory limit is- Rs 15 lakhs for a Lok Sabha seat (depending on the constituency and the number of voters), Rs 3 to 6 lakhs for state legislatures (depending on the area), and Rs 75,000 for municipal corporations.
The political parties and the candidates appraise and spend a huge amount compared to the meagre limits. They incur the capital through funds and donations. The questions pings, who furnishes such funds and donations? These funds generally come from underworld or the business bizarre. After becoming the MP or MLA they become altruist and venerate to the supporting factors before the elections and victory.
The criminals and mafia thus dwell and flourish under the aegis of these MPs and MLAs. This nexus is the real shoot in arm to the criminalization of politics or in other words ‘Bemired politics’. Indian politics is not a philanthropic activity instead it has become a means to accrue power by the avid and abhorrent leaders.
On May 2, 2002, the Supreme Court gave a historic ruling following public interest litigation by an NGO.
It ruled that every candidate, contesting an election to Parliament, State Legislatures or Municipal Corporation, has to declare the following along with the application for his/her candidature:
- A candidate's criminal charges
- The candidate's financial records
- The candidate's educational qualifications
If the candidate fails to file any of the above three declarations, the Returning Officer will have the right to reject his nomination papers. The Supreme Court has ruled that all the three declarations will have to be true.
The Election Commission had sent a notification on June 28, 2002, to all State Election Officers with a view to enforcing it. The Supreme Court's thrust has been that the people and the voters have the right to know about the candidate's criminal record, assets and liabilities and educational qualifications. The Returning Of¬ficer has to publish these declarations for the voters' knowledge.
The Election Commission under T S Krishnamurthy proposed in its 2004 report that Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 should be amended to disqualify candidates accused of an offence punishable by imprisonment of 5 years or more even when trial is pending, given that the Court has framed charges against the person. In the report the Commission addresses the possibility that such a provision could be misused in the form of motivated cases by the ruling party.
To prevent such misuse, the Commission suggested a compromise whereas only cases filed prior to six months before an election would lead to disqualification of a candidate. In addition, the Commission proposed that Candidates found guilty by a Commission of Enquiry should stand disqualified.
The above stated reformative measures are just a drop in bucket. A complete renaissance is needed to clean the politics, the gravity of matter can be deciphered with the fact that almost all political parties are up a blind allay to win elections.
In a TV show the affluent BJP leader and IAS officer Yashwant Sinha had said “people say that politics is not a good career option for amenable youngsters. If good, flawless, educated youngsters would not come to politics then be ready to be ruled by the aberrant leaders.”
Silence signifies our acquiesce.
Many commission and committees have been framed for amelioration of politics. But this is just a political gimmick. We are the choosers then why not to come in the forefront and vote against the candidates possessing the criminal allegations. Why are we waiting for a reformer, an august to help us get rid of this circumstance?
Let’s pledge to vote, vote against the criminal bugs who have percolated in the roots of politics of the country which has an aureate history of freedom struggle through ahimsa. Let’s fight another freedom struggle.