Voters stand in a queue to cast their votes at a polling station near Moradabad. By turning out in droves at the elections, the people of Uttar Pradesh have not only silenced the critics, but also made any prediction of a clear winner a risky proposition. AP/Manish Swarup.
Crime doesn’t pay – even in elections. Uttar Pradesh, which elected criminal candidates year after year, has finally put its foot down.
Of the 901 tainted candidates trying their luck at the hustings, just 14 have managed to win. In 2007 elections, 122 such candidates were elected.
“The final report on criminal candidates is being prepared and will be released soon,” said former IPS officer IC Dwivedi, a member of the National Election Watch (NEW) that has been campaigning against criminalisation of politics.
Social activists and peoples’ watch groups feel the credit goes to the voters and not political parties, who, despite public posturing, had given tickets to tainted individuals en masse.
In the 2007 assembly elections, 28% candidates faced criminal charges. The figure went up to 35 per cent in 2012.
“Some parties did show a reluctance to field hardcore criminals. But that only led to the criminals floating their own parties,” said social worker A Mohd Idrees.
Mafia dons Brijesh Singh, his archrival Prem Prakash Singh alias Munna Bajrangi and Atiq Ahmad contested the elections from behind the bars.
Singh contested from Sayiadraja constituency of Chandauli district on the ticket of Pragatisheel Manav Samaj Party. He pulled all stops, but lost by 2016 votes to Independent candidate Manoj Kumar.
Bajrangi, who stood from Mariyahu assembly seat on Apna Dal ticket, too was defeated by Samajwadi Party nominee Shhradha Yadav.
The Apna Dal aspirant from Allahabad West constituency, Atiq Ahmad, lost to Pooja Pal, wife of former BSP legislator Raju Pal. Atiq is a prime accused in Raju's murder.
Two dons, who enjoy a Robin Hood kind of image — Mukhtar Ansari and Raghu Raj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya — however managed a win. While Mukhtar won from Mau, Raja Bhaiyya, who has never lost an election, got re-elected from Pratapgarh’s Kunda. Gang-lord Abhay Singh won from Goshaiganj on a Samajwadi Party ticket.