Laloo for jailbirds in fray
Politicians in Bihar are divided over a Patna High Court directive on Friday to consider countermanding parliamentary polls in constituencies where candidates facing trial in criminal cases were contesting.
The High Court issued the order while hearing a litigation seeking disqualification of candidates in poll fray from jail and whose voting rights were suspended by law.
Bihar's ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Laloo Prasad Yadav said there was no such law to debar a jailed person to contest election.
But leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) not only welcomed the court's ruling, but also urged the Election Commission to act against mob bosses in the fray to check the criminalisation of politics.
The left parties, including the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist, also lauded the court's ruling and said it was a step in preventing entry of criminals into electoral politics.
The court left it to the poll panel to consider or reject the request. It, however, questioned the right of prisoners with a criminal background to contest polls in view of the fact that their voting rights are suspended under election laws.
Yadav publicly voiced his disapproval of the court ruling, saying a person behind the bars also has rights to contest election.
However, Nand Kishor Yadav, former BJP president of the state and convenor of NDA in Bihar said court's ruling may bring much awaited changes in political scenario.
"This order will revolutionise politics and free it from criminals, particularly in Bihar" he said.
State BJP spokesperson Kiran Ghai urged the Election Commission to take a bold decision, saying: "The court's ruling has provided an opportunity to stop criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crimes."
CPI state secretary Jalaluddin Ansari said the ruling is good for people who believes in democratic structure. "It will give a boost to the fight against increasing criminalisation of politics.
CPI-ML leader Ram Jatan Sharma said the Election Commission should act without delay before the result of general elections are announced.
The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) also welcomed the ruling, but leaders of the Lok Jan Shakti Party - which has an electoral pact with the RJD -were tight-lipped over the issue. The order may give sleepless nights to nearly half a dozen criminals-turned-politicians contesting the polls from behind bars in Bihar.
The court's ruling came on a suit filed by the JD-U candidate from Siwan, Om Prakash Yadav, against ruling RJD nominee Mohammed Shahabuddin.
The JD-U nominee alleged Shahabuddin, though in judicial custody, was undergoing treatment at a government hospital outside the jail, giving him an edge in managing his campaign while seeking re-election from Siwan.
Apart from Shahabuddin, other contestants facing criminal charges include Ranvir Sena (a private militia of upper caste landlords) chief Brahmeshwar Singh and Ranjit Don alias Suman Kumar Singh, the alleged mastermind behind the leak of examination papers for entrance tests to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management.