In September, when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi tore into the ordinance seeking to protect convicted lawmakers, he said, “It is time to stop this nonsense, political parties, mine and all others...If you want to fight corruption in the country... we cannot continue making these small compromises.”
It’s been two months since then, ticket distribution in the poll-bound seats are over, but the ‘nonsense’ is not.
All possible deterrents — the Supreme Court ruling barring convicted lawmakers from continuing in Parliament or assemblies, Gandhi’s criticism of the ordinance and the UPA government’s subsequent U-turn, and the conviction of RJD chief Lalu Prasad in a 17-year-old fodder scam — have failed to make an impact. And political parties — Gandhi’s and all others — have gone ahead and given the ticket to candidates with criminal records once again.
The figures for Rajasthan are not available yet but a number of candidates facing criminal charges are in the fray. Rough estimates say around 20% of aspirants to the December 1 elections to the 200 assembly seats here either have a tainted record or are closely related to politicians who have charges against them.
If the BJP has fielded former state home minister Gulab Chand Kataria — named by the CBI as among the conspirators in the infamous Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case of 2005 — the Congress has put up the wife of Mahipal Maderna and the mother of Malkhan Bishnoi as candidates.
Both Maderna and Bishnoi are accused in the Bhanwari Devi rape and murder case and are in jail at present.
The BJP has also nominated former state minister Rajendra Rathore as a candidate. Rathore is facing a CBI inquiry in the Dara Singh fake encounter case and is out on bail at present.
MP AND CHHATTISGARH
Cut to Madhya Pradesh. Here, three in every 10 (30%) of the candidates fielded by the three major parties — Congress, BJP, BSP — contesting over 200 of the 230 assembly seats in the current elections have criminal cases registered against them.
The charges range from murder to kidnapping to criminal intimidation.
Two candidates — Brajendra Singh of the Congress from Prithvipur and Sukhlal Prasad of the BSP from Nagod — have declared murder charges against themselves, while seven have attempt-to-murder charges. Five candidates have declared crimes against women cases against them.
Chhattisgarh is marginally better, with only 11 out of 85 candidates facing criminal charges. The most significant is the BJP’s Bijapur candidate Mahesh Gagda facing murder charge.
As for the larger trend, sociologist Rajeev Gupta says, “Political ethics or ideology is increasingly becoming redundant in today’s political environment. The trend of criminalisation of politics is here to stay.”