The second phase of the Lok Sabha election 2009 kicks off on 23 April, when twelve states (while some face their first phase, others their second) would go to polls. National Election Watch (NEW), an umbrella group of more than 1200 NGOs, on Sunday released details of candidates contesting in the second phase from three states: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa, which shows that among the three, UP has the highest percentage of candidates with criminal records.
The figure for UP is 21% (38 of the 182 contesting on 23rd), as against Maharashtra with 19% (59 of 312) and Goa with 6% (one of the 18). According to the NEW data, most political parties have done their bit in perpetuating the trend of criminalization of politics by fielding those with criminal records. In UP, the top four parties being SP (10), BSP (7), Congress (4) and BJP (3) while in Maharashtra, the list reads BSP (6), NCP and Shiv Sena (5 each), Congress (4) and BJP (3). In Goa, the only candidate with a criminal background is from NCP (Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party).
Parties fielding those with some criminal record is no longer a mere aberration and has in fact almost become a norm, so much so, that one actually expresses relief at seeing just one such candidate being fielded from Goa instead of condemning the existence of a criminal element in politics.
Unfortunately, this is one issue that cuts across party lines and invites effortless consensus. None of the parties seem to hesitate before giving tickets to those with criminal records, as the NEW statistics reveal. The criminal charges against these candidates are not only for minor offences but also crimes such as murder, attempt to murder, rioting, criminal conspiracy etc as well.
For instance, in UP alone there are 84 charges of serious nature (including that of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, extortion, etc.) against the candidates with criminal records.
And these are statistics for just three states and one phase of a five-phase election! Imagine the number of MP-aspirants with criminal backgrounds running for elections across the country and the possibility of a sizeable chunk of them actually getting elected to the Lok Sabha.
Criminalization of politics in India is not merely a textbook phenomenon but a regrettable reality. And as information for the second phase for these three states reveals, this phenomenon and the tendency to aggravate it is not confined to any one political party or state. The statistics for an all-India level for phase II is hardly likely to be any less dismal.
NEW is going to release its all-India information about phase II soon. Watch this space for more.