Every sixth candidate fielded by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress for the December 12 Gujarat assembly elections has a criminal background, a report of a rights group says.
At least 101 of the 1,000 aspirants for the 182-member house have a tainted past, says a report by Gujarat Election Watch (GEW), a group of academics and social workers headed by former Gujarat High Court chief justice BJ Diwan.
Of them, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's BJP has fielded 34 and the Congress 29.
Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of making inflammatory speeches for which he could be prosecuted under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Health Minister Ashok Bhatt, charged with leading a mob that lynched a police constable two years ago, also figures in the list.
"We scrutinised all the affidavits filed by candidates before the Election Commission. We also gathered information on candidates from a variety of other sources. As a result of this, 101 candidates with a criminal background were identified," Diwan told reporters here while releasing the report.
Under a new law, all candidates have to file an affidavit along with their nomination papers stating that they do not have any criminal cases pending against them nor have they been convicted.
The GEW report has been submitted to the Election Commission, major political parties and 300 NGOs.
GEW said its activities would be replicated in other parts of the country.
"This movement has to gain momentum if Indian democracy has to sustain itself," said GEW member Trilochan Shastri, a faculty member of the Indian Institute of Management.
According to Shastri, similar committees were planned in several states, including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.