How parties justify fielding candidates with criminal cases
According to people familiar with the matter, six leading parties have sent reports to the Election Commission (EC) explaining why they chose candidates facing criminal cases. Over 100 recognised and unrecognised state and national parties have fielded their candidates in the polls.Updated: Oct 24, 2020, 21:01 IST
A woman whose late husband was a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) strongman and who has served a jail sentence for illegal liquor supply and whose son Rocky Yadav is in prison for life for murder, is the ruling Janata Dal (United), or JD (U), candidate to the Aria seat in the Bihar assembly elections.
JD (U) justifies its nomination of Manorama Devi, widow of Bindi Yadav, on grounds that she has done extensive work in her previous stint as a member of the legislative council (MLC).
“Elected as a Member of the Legislative Council from the Local Bodies Constituency consisting of the Districts of Gaya, Arwal and Jahanabad, as a representative of the Local Body, Devi has done extensive work in the field of decentralisation especially the programmes concerning women,” reads a document on JD(U)’s website.
Devi surrendered on May 17, 2016 and was granted bail by the Patna high court on June 7, 2016, after being charged with illegal supply of liquor in the dry state.
She is just one of the candidates with a criminal record fielded by parties in the three-phase election set for October 28, November 3 and 7, despite a February 13 Supreme Court ruling that all political parties should justify the contestants they pick on the basis of their qualifications and merits.
According to people familiar with the matter, six leading parties have sent reports to the Election Commission (EC) explaining why they chose candidates facing criminal cases. Over 100 recognised and unrecognised state and national parties have fielded their candidates in the polls.
The people cited above said on condition of anonymity that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), JD (U), RJD, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), have complied with the directive. According to EC data, 327, or over 30%, of 1,065 candidates fielded in the first phase of elections, have criminal cases pending against them. The election watchdog has not provided a party-wise breakup of the candidates with pending cases.
Other political parties are expected to send their compliance reports soon.
RJD has so far fielded the highest number of candidates with criminal records, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government organisation that works for political and electoral reforms, said in a report released on Tuesday.
The report said 30 (73%) out of 41 RJD candidates in the fray in the first phase of polling have criminal records. Similarly, 21 (72%) out of 29 BJP candidates, 24 (59%) out of 41 Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) nominees, and 12 (57%) out of 21 Congress contestants have criminal cases pending against them. JD(U) has fielded 15 (43%) and BSP eight (31%) candidates with a criminal record, the ADR report said.
HT reached out to Sanjay Yadav of the RJD and Bhupendra Yadav of the BJP but received no comment until press time.
ADR co-founder Jagdeep Chhokar said a law needs to be passed barring those with criminal charges framed against them from contesting polls. “JD(U) has put the reasons for selection of candidates [with pending criminal cases] on their website, including popularity and likeability...” “If I were the EC, I would not accept these reasons. The reports are likely to be a farce.”