Criminalising Parliamentary Politics

Criminalisation of Indian  parliamentary politics is so deep-rooted that all parties hire goons during polls and field candidates with criminal charges. As per the Supreme Court order dated September 25, 2018, it is mandatory for all political parties to provide information regarding pending criminal cases against the contesting candidates, to the Election Commission. The all important information is also required to be published in a local and a national daily and up-loaded on official social media platform. But nobody bothers about the apex court’s order. It has virtually no effect on the political parties in the selection of candidates. Election comes, election goes and it is the same old story of parading candidates with criminal records. In truth more and more people with criminal past are being elected to assemblies and parliament. The reasons given by the political parties to the Election Commission as to why they select such candidates are anything but hilarious. They say they have no better alternative in the given situation. If anything this election business is all about how to loot the exchequer and it cannot go without violence and involvement of criminals. Vested interests matter.

Modi’s home state Gujarat presents a unique scenario where dozens of candidates with criminal records from all parties are contesting in the first phase of ensuing assembly election. The number of candidates fielded by the Aam Admi Party (AAP) having criminal cases in different courts is 32 in the first phase of poll in Gujarat. In truth thirty percent of its candidates are facing serious charges such as murder, rape, assault, kidnapping among others as per a report of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). This is the anatomy of Kejriwal-led AAP. And AAP is closely followed by Congress which has fielded 35 percent of its candidates who have allegedly committed crimes. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not far behind. It has selected a large number of candidates with criminal records. Percentage-wise such BJP candidates account for 16 percent of its total number while 12 percent are facing serious charges as the ADR report highlights. Strangely enough, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) which is contesting 14 seats in the first phase has four candidates (i.e. 29 percent) with declared criminal cases. What is more at least seven percent of its candidates have serious criminal cases this time. Of the 167 candidates from the first phase of Gujarat assembly election, 100 have declared serious cases against them in their affidavit submitted to the Election Commission. These include nine cases of crime against women, three cases of murder and 12 cases of attempt to murder. These men are called people’s representatives; they are law-makers who decide the fate of millions. Law-breakers are today persons in power. In the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections Congress, BJP and BTP had fielded 36, 25 and 67 percent candidates with criminal cases respectively in the first phase. The same tradition continues unabated. There is no difference between ruling parties and opposition parties---all utilise the service of ‘crime syndicates’ to win elections.

Poll-related violence is somewhat endemic in this biggest show-case of democracy. Pre-poll violence or post-poll violence, no election at the panchayet level or assembly level is free from violence. And in this area West Bengal leads the way. In Panchayet election in West Bengal in many places opposition parties are not simply allowed to file nominations. Even supporters of the opposition are terrorised and forced to leave their villages. The culture of violence mocks at the very spirit of parliamentary democracy. As for rigging and false voting the less said the better--it is now part of the game called electoral politics. Muscle power had its role in elections in yester years but it is becoming an increasingly deciding factor in the outcome of election results.

Foot soldiers for election- oriented political campaigns are available in plenty in this land of massive unemployment. Even left parties see election as the only avenue in which they could engage their cadres round the year. And unfair means is not taboo to them. In the absence of mass mobilisation against corruption and injustice the persons in authority have succeeded in creating a situation of hopelessness which in turn gives birth to desperation among the youth.

Violence begets violence. And this vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence is unlikely to go away unless the oppressed raise their unified voice against the power brokers and dubious persons with criminal records, sitting in assemblies and parliament, as MLAs and MPs.


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Vol 55, No. 24, Dec 11 - 17, 2022