Slim chances to win an election “without a criminal record”

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Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem
Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

In India, even if the judiciary wants to purge politics of criminals, the fact is that if you are clean, want to contest elections and win, there is bad news for you.

According to an analysis done by election reforms groups Association for Democratic Records (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW), the chances of winning for a candidate with a clean record is only 12%. The shocker is that if you have serious criminal charges around you, the chances of getting elected are 23%.

Those who have neither dabbled in crime nor have allegiance to any political party have no chance of winning. Independent candidates in India have only 1% chance of winning. The analysis was conducted on 62,847 candidates in state and general polls and 8,790 legislators (MLAs/MPs) since 2004.

The findings come when political parties await with bated breath – the four upcoming state assembly elections and the general elections slated for 2014.

In their defense, political parties had claimed that politicians are often the targets of smear campaigns and charges are a result of their political activism. Several complaints are filed against them for political activism that often end in major or minor criminal charges.

In the ADR report, released here on Monday, they have arrived at the probability by a simple calculation. ADR analysts have divided the number of winners with clean records by the total number of candidates with clean records.

An analysis of 233 Biju Janata Dal candidates has shown that they had the highest chances of winning with clean records (85%). The All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (DMK) come next with 51% and 48% respectively.

ADR’s report shows that independents with criminal cases have had a higher chance of winning. There is only a 1% chance for an independent candidate to win elections since 2004.

The results of ADR’s analysis have also shown that in the BJD, the candidates have a 75% chance of being elected with serious criminal charges as well. The same goes for the AIADMK and DMK at 73% and 59% respectively.

Several state parties have been very benevolent with giving tickets to people with serious criminal charges. Not surprisingly, the average wealth in assets of these candidates is also very high. High on this list is Shiromani Akali Dal, the ruling party in Punjab.

The average worth of assets of 209 analysed candidates was Rs 6.02 crore. 25% of these candidates had criminal charges, but only 8% of the elected legislators have serious criminal charges against them. But this 8% have an average asset value of Rs 17.34 crore – the highest in this category in the country. The closest to the figure is aviation minister Chaudhary Ajit Singh’s party, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). The average worth of assets of RLD’s MP/MLAs with serious criminal charges is around Rs 7.9 crore.

The highest number of legislators with serious criminal charges is from the Shiv Sena, the Maharashtra-based party. 611 analysed candidates of Shiv Sena show the party has had 45% candidates with criminal charges, 21% with serious charges, and a record 75% legislators (MPs and MLAs) with criminal charges, apart from 31% with serious criminal charges.

Trilochan Shastry, founder member of ADR, said that they have not been able to compile the list of how many candidates are contesting elections from jail.

“The point of this report is to help the electorate make an informed choice during the elections. The political system must be cleaned up. Even if there are trumped-up charges against the politicians, they should not be allowed to contest elections,” said Shastry, a lecturer at IIM Bangalore.

Jagdeep Chokhar, a former lecturer at IIM-Ahmedabad, said that not allowing people with criminal records / charges would not violate their fundamental rights.

“With such a record, even government service is not allowed, so why should these people be elected to such high offices,” said Chokhar. The recent Supreme Court judgment did away with section 8 (4) in its July 10 judgment. This section allowed convicted legislators to remain in office by filing an appeal against their conviction.

ADR is also trying to find out how many convicted politicians are holding office across the country at present. The judgment, which was to take prospective effect, does not cover those that had filed an appeal against their conviction before July 10.

Grow rich between elections

Inflation might be rising and the common man forced to shell out more. The poverty index refuses to go down despite attempts to tweaking its base.

Nevertheless, crorepati politicians manage to multiply their wealth reposing faith in the belief that only the rich can contest elections. Nearly 40% (1,615) of the candidates increased their wealth by about 200% since the last poll. The wealth of around 7.5% candidates had grown by 1,000% since the last election.

A total of 4,181 candidates showed an average increase of wealth of Rs 2.34 crore, reports ADR.

The data was extracted as per the election affidavits which require disclosure of the assets and income of the candidate.

One of the noted shortcomings of the present template of the poll candidates’ affidavit is that it does not disclose the source of the income.

Total re-contesting candidates analysed

4181

Asset increase of 1,615 (39%) candidates

200%

Asset increase of 684 (20%) candidates

500%

Asset increase of 420 (10%) candidates

800%

Asset increase of 317 (7.5%) candidates

1000%

 

The Gender Bender

With an average sex ratio of about 1.04 in the country, only 7% of the contesting candidates from 2004 have been women. Only 10% of these have declared criminal charges and 4% have declared serious criminal charges.

Amongst 675 women legislators (MPs/MLAs), 16% have declared criminal charges and 6% have declared criminal charges.

The All India Trinamool Congress, at 12%, has given the highest number of tickets to women.

Power can keep the courts waiting

The power of political backing can severely delay criminal cases.

There are 25 MLAs and 15 MPs who have serious criminal cases, pending against them for more than 10 years.
Of these, the longest pending is Aliganj MLA from Samajwadi Party (SP), Rameshwar Singh. He has a murder and attempt to murder case pending for 28 years.

Tying with Singh at 28 years pendency of a serious criminal case, is Mitrasen Yadav, Bikapur MLA from SP. Yadav has been MLA five time and MP once. He had been convicted for a double murder in 1966 but later was pardoned. He has also switched allegiances and been with both SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh and has also been charged with human trafficking.

Of course, the world knows the case of former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who had to resign in 1997 after charges of sheltering party colleagues and bureaucrats who were embezzling public money. The case are pending since then.

Amongst MPs, the longest-pending case is of Harin Pathak of the Bharatiya Janata Party with a case pending for 24 years. Following him closely is Venugopala Reddy Modugula of the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) at 23 years and Vitthalbhai Radaiya of Congress at 22 years.

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