Guns and goons have played a key role in Bihar’s politics for decades. As the eastern state heads to the polls next month, outlaws with itchy trigger fingers as well as ‘baahubalis’, or strongmen, are back in the frame.
Dozens of erstwhile gangsters have found their way into mainstream politics either directly or through spouses and relatives. Some of them will not contest the polls, but their influence can swing the fortunes of candidates.
Fighting elections requires a torrent of money and manpower. So, while the national poll panel has been striving to clean up India’s electoral system, political parties in their endeavour to win the ballot battle often gloss over probity and pick nominees with intimidating police records who are flush with cash.
This time, 99 candidates facing criminal charges are in the fray. During the previous assembly polls, the non-profit Association for Democratic Reforms identified 141 such contestants. Some of them have been acquitted in the last five years while others have died.
The BJP and JD(U), two parties leading rival alliances, together have more than seven dozen candidates with criminal backgrounds, while the RJD has made six such picks. Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM and the Congress have three criminal candidates each, one is from the LJP and one is contesting independently.
Of these, 30 candidates have been accused of serious crimes like murder, kidnapping, extortion and loot. The Grand Alliance tops this list with 17 such nominees while the NDA has 13.
JD(U)’s Pradip Kumar, who is contesting from the Warisaliganj constituency, leads the pack with 32 cases against him, followed by the RJD’s Rajvallabh Yadav from Nawada with 17 cases. The BJP’s Niraj Singh from Chhatapur and Anil Singh from Hisua also have serious charges against their names.
The RJD has fielded Surendra Prasad Yadav from Jehanabad, popularly known by the selfcoined epithet “Magadh Samrat” for his influence in the Maoistaffected Magadh region.
Notorious gangster Ritlal Yadav, who was elected to the legislative council recently as an independent candidate, is set to field his brother from the Danapur seat. His importance in the polls was underscored when RJD chief Lalu Prasad visited his home, apparently to seek support for his daughter in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Lovely Anand, the wife of incarcerated “baahubali” and former MP Anand Mohan, is set to contest from Sheohar for the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM). She fought the previous parliamentary polls on a Samajwadi Party ticket and the 2009 Lok Sabha election from the Congress.