As the voting in UP crosses the halfway point — Saturday saw the successful completion of five out of eight rounds of polling — it’s time to ask what sort of candidates are on offer. UP Election Watch, under the diligent direction of the indefatigable Bibhu Mohapatra, has analysed the affidavits of the 3,358 candidates in the first four rounds. Here are some of the conclusions.
As many as 446 candidates, which is 13.8 per cent, have criminal cases. More significantly, if you look at the major parties — Congress, BJP, BSP, SP — in each case the percentage is appreciably above 20. The SP tops the tally with 33.91 per cent and although Congress is at the bottom with 22.51 per cent, one of its candidates — Puran Singh Bundela from Mehroni — faces 19 cases including attempt to murder, kidnapping, theft and rioting. So the next time Mulayam Singh Yadav claims only SP can rule UP effectively, or Rahul Gandhi promises to tackle lawlessness and goonda raj, someone should ask how that squares with these facts.
The BSP and the BJP have fielded the most candidates accused of murder and attempt to murder. But since the BJP claims it’s a party with a difference, it’s worth noting the full details — six accused of murder, 13 of attempt to murder, four of grievous injury, four of theft, one of kidnapping and 34 of rioting. I’d say that makes for quite a difference!
However, what makes the situation yet more depressing is that it’s more than likely such candidates will get elected. In 2002, there were 506 candidates with criminal cases — a number I feel will be exceeded in 2007 by the end of round 8 — of which 206, or 40.7 per cent, won. In turn, that meant that every second member of the last assembly faced criminal charges!
The amazing thing is some of these candidates have chosen to ‘hide’ what is already known about them. According to Bibhu’s analysis, there are at least 93 who were members of the last assembly and, according to the UP government, face criminal charges; 34 — or 36.5 per cent — have withheld that fact by not mentioning it in their affidavits this time around. Did they really think no one would notice?
Sadly, this is only one part of the grim picture Bibhu has presented. Equally disconcerting are the findings connected with the tax status of the candidates: 2,379 of the 3,358 — that’s 70.84 per cent — don’t have PAN numbers. Either their income is so small they don’t count as tax assessees or they are evading the taxman. Here the party-wise tally, in ascending order of percentages, is SP 34.35, BJP 36.92, BSP 37.18 and Congress 48.92.
Dig deeper and you will find the details are even more fascinating. The SP and BSP have the largest number of candidates with assets of more than one crore. It’s 26 per cent in either case. The Congress — in Saiduzzaman standing from Muzaffarnagar — has a candidate with outstanding loans of two crores but no PAN number. The BJP — in Kalpnath Sonkar from Nagar East — has a candidate who claims he has nil assets. I wonder how long that will continue if he’s elected.
The astonishing thing is that the worst offenders — if that’s the right word — are independents. It transpires that 86.26 per cent don’t have PAN numbers. Does that make them independent of any contribution to the state or independent of any fear of the state?
However, the finding that truly surprises me is the analysis of education levels. Bibhu can only offer details of the second and fourth rounds of voting. The rest has still to be computed. In round 2, at least 45 per cent of the major party candidates are ‘graduates and above’. In round 4, the percentage jumps to 55. I find that incredible. This time the honours go to the BJP — 68.42 per cent in round 2 and 65.39 in round 4. So, if you assume this is not an accident — and that must also be the case when parties field candidates with criminal cases — don’t you get the feeling they pay attention to education but not ‘criminality’?
The conclusion — if you want to end with one — should be obvious: the candidates may carry a long list of heinous crimes but it does seem they’re a well educated lot. So if we’re destined to be ruled by ‘crooks’ they will at least be graduates. I call that progress. India Shining or Mera Bharat Mahaan!