Want to know if the candidate you plan to vote for these elections has a criminal record? Thanks to the efforts of a recently launched "No Criminals" campaign, you can do that now, either by logging on to their website or sending an SMS.
Just over a month old, the campaign, whose goal is to wipe out criminalisation of politics, is gaining momentum amongst people, especially youngsters.
Guru Murthy, one of the coordinators of the campaign, said that the idea of the campaign is to give a voter more right than just casting his ballot.
"As citizens of this country, we have more right than just voting. We have the right to select the right candidate - someone who has a clean record and will actually work for the welfare of the masses. This is what our campaign aims to do - help a person make a conscious decision in not voting for a criminal," Murthy told IANS.
To find out if a candidate in a particular constituency has a criminal record, one can send an SMS to 567678 typing NC (space) (pincode of the place) and get registered with the campaign. Thereafter, he or she will get an SMS giving details of any criminal record of the MP in the constituency.
Or one can log on to the campaign's website www.nocriminals.org and follow a similar procedure.
According to the National Election Watch (NEW), a group of election observers, six major political parties have already fielded at least 63 Lok Sabha candidates who face criminal charges or have a criminal past. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leads the list with 28 such candidates.
There are also 13 from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), five each from the Congress and the Samajwadi Party and two from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
At the moment, most of the data available with the "No Criminals" campaign is old, gleaned from the affidavits submitted by candidates during the last Lok Sabha polls in 2004.
"As of now the data available is from 2004. However, a week before a state goes to the polls - when the withdrawal of nominations to elections is completed - the data will be updated. So for the states going to the polls on April 16, when the first phase of the elections begin, the latest data on the contestants will be available from Sunday night," Murthy said.
The campaign has also tied up with several other organisations like NEW, youth groups like Youth for Equality and other campaigns like Jaago Re, which urge the people to vote.
"Funds are a problem when it comes to publicising our effort. But we are doing all that we can - tying up with other organisations, organising art exhibitions, making our presence felt in web space through social networking sites and two advertisements.
"People are really desperate for a positive change and a cleaner political scenario. It may seem like a Utopian idea now, but if people promise not to vote for criminals, then with time even political parties will stop fielding them," Murty said.