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Crime and grime

columns Updated: May 31, 2009 13:24 IST
Karan Thapar

A new Parliament is a new beginning. It represents another opportunity to correct mistakes and set invaluable precedents for the future. That’s why the decisive election outcome was greeted with a wave of euphoria. Things are going to change, we said to ourselves. And they’re going to get better, we added with a strong silent prayer.

After the unfortunately delayed and disappointing council of ministers, Parliament will convene tomorrow. So, today, let’s see if our MPs live up to our hopes or if they represent the triumph of past practice over eager expectation.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has done an analysis based on the affidavits MPs filed when they became candidates. ADR has looked at 533 out of 541 declared winners — that’s an overwhelming 98.5 per cent — and the conclusions are disillusioning. No doubt things have changed — but only for the worse.

Here are the dismal facts: we’ve just gifted ourselves 150 MPs — that’s more than a quarter — who face criminal charges. It’s also 22 more than 2004, a substantial increase of 17.2 per cent. The only saving grace is that the total number of cases they face has shrunk. From 429 in 2004 down to 412.

But there’s more in the ADR analysis to sour your mood this Sunday morning. The number of MPs facing serious criminal charges has shot up by an astonishing 30.9 per cent. These are MPs accused of murder, attempt to murder, robbery, dacoity, kidnapping, forgery and cheating, among other charges.

From 55 their number has now reached 72. Incidentally, that’s 13 per cent of the Lok Sabha. Once again, however, the total number of serious cases has fallen. This time by a healthy 29.5 per cent.

So what’s the conclusion? We have a higher percentage of MPs facing criminal cases and, within that, more of them face serious ones but, mercifully or paradoxically (take your pick), the total number of cases in both categories is down. To put it colloquially, more crooks but less instances of crookery.

ADR has also done a crime-wise analysis of the new Parliament which is particularly depressing. Twenty are accused of murder, 24 of attempt to murder, 7 of dacoity, 3 of robbery, 2 of simple kidnapping but 5 of kidnapping in order to murder. Believe it or not, we even have an MP accused of assaulting the President or Governor with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of power (IPC Section 124). And we call this lot law-makers.

Perhaps for a bit of fun, ADR has published a ‘top of the pops’ list. Jagdish Sharma, JD(U) from Jahanabad (Bihar), faces 17 cases. He seems to be the clear ‘winner’. The top 10 include 3 BJP MPs (with Prabhatsinh Pratapsinh Chauhan from Panchmahal, Gujarat as third) and 2 Congress. And, in case you’re interested, there’s even a Communist — P Karunakaran from Kasargod, Kerala.

More importantly, how do the major political parties fare on the crimes stakes? In terms of absolute numbers the BJP is the slender winner. 42 of its MPs face criminal cases of which 19 are deemed serious. The Congress comes in with 41 and 12. But in percentage terms it’s a very different outcome. The clear winners are three small regional parties (JVM, VCK and AIMIM) with an astonishing 100 per cent tally. RJD comes next with 75 per cent, SP lower with 36.75 per cent, and BSP lower still with 28.57 per cent. On this score, the BJP comes in at 36.21 per cent and the Congress at 20.30 per cent.

Finally, in terms of state rivalry, UP is number 1. Thirty of its 80 MPs face criminal charges. But, once again, in percentage terms the ‘honours’ go elsewhere. Nearly 48 per cent of the MPs from Maharashtra face charges, as do 42 per cent from Bihar, Gujarat and Jharkhand, whilst the ‘loser’ is Assam. Only 7.14 per cent of its MPs stand accused of crimes.

One last thing: ADR also reveals that the new Parliament has 300 crorepatis. That represents an increase of 95 per cent over 5 years ago.

Mera Bharat Mahan — in more ways than one.