Mumbai's MLAs seem to believe they are above the law, if you go by the date compiled by a non-governmental organisation (NGO). The Praja Foundation that works to ensure greater accountability among elected representatives, found that in 2009, 15 of the 36 MLAs the city elected had serious criminal charges against them.
However, in the five years in power since then, these 15 MLAs have added more cases to the list. Not just that, three other city MLAs, who did not have a record when they were elected, also saw serious criminal charges being registered against them, taking the number of tainted MLAs to 18.
As a result, while the city gears up to elect a new set of MLAs, as it stands today, one out of its two current MLAs have serious criminal charges registered against them. The data also reveals that in the past five years, the city’s MLAs had 20 new FIRs registered against them and 13 new charge-sheets naming them. Mumbai, however, is not the exception. In the 2009 state polls, 148 of the total 288 MLAs elected had criminal records. This means more than half the MLAs (52%) were tainted.
However, many of these cases are political cases, filed for unlawful assembly, rioting and uttering insults with an intention to provoke breach of peace. These cases are common occurrence in political protests and agitations. Of the 148 cases, 94, however, were serious charges including murder, an attempt to murder, kidnapping and extortion among others.
How does one read these statistics, then? For Milind Mhaske, Praja’s project director, this data is symbolic of the brazenness of our politicians. “After getting elected, our representatives begin to believe that they are well and truly above the law. What better way to illustrate this than the case of two MLAs, Ram Kadam and Kshitij Thakur, allegedly assaulting a serving policeman right outside the assembly hall?”
The NN Vohra committee, constituted in 1993 to delve deeper into the crime-politics nexus and suggest solutions for it, found that one reason for this nexus to grow in larger cities was the hold over real estate . For today's Mumbai that could still hold true.
Another reason could be the winning chances of a tainted candidate. A study by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) revealed that candidates with criminal records were more likely to win than those with a clean record. Ajit Ranade from ADR, said, “This is a disturbing trend. There has been a steady rise in the number of criminally tainted politicians coming into politics and winning in the state since 2004.”