Publicising contents of the Affidavit of every candidate in English and in the local languages will go a long way in bringing criminal acts of the candidate before the electorate of that constituency.
Such a campaign during the election is necessary to give voters correct information on one hand and to expose criminal acts of the candidate on the other hand. Such awareness may enlighten the voters and they may cast their votes for an upright candidate
By Tomazinho Cardozo
It was very disturbing to learn that almost one-third of our elected representatives – Members of Parliament (MP), Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and Members of Legislative Council (MLCs) - have criminal backgrounds. In other words, criminal cases against them are pending in Courts. This information has been given to the public by National Election Watch (NEW) and Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). Both organisations represent over 1200 civil societies and aim at improving the electoral system in the country by bringing effective electoral reforms. The ultimate aim is to make the functioning of democracy in the country meaningful.
According to the study made by NEW and ADR, these observations are based on affidavits submitted by candidates themselves when contesting Parliamentary or State Assembly elections. All these affidavits were submitted to the Election Commission as required by the election process in the country. As per the study there are 776 MPs in both houses of Parliament and 4120 MLAs and MLCs in all the states on the country. The total number of legislators in the country is 4896. As reported by NEW and ADR they have analysed 4835 Affidavits which includes 772 MPs and 4063 legislators from all over the country. According to that study, of the 4835 legislators 1448 legislators have criminal cases pending against them in the courts of law. This amounts almost to one third of the elected representatives.
One is stunned on studying the types of crimes allegedly committed by these legislators. No doubt, any accused is innocent unless proved guilty and this is the weapon used by tainted candidates to contest and win elections. As per details provided by NEW and ADR; there are 6 legislators who are accused of rapes, 140 legislators facing murder charges, 350 are charged for attempt of murder, 75 with dacoity charges, 90 accused of kidnapping and 145 charged with thefts! In spite of having such criminal background, these 1448 candidates managed to win elections and today are our representatives either in the Parliament or in the State Assemblies. Law-breakers have turned into law-makers. Unfortunate indeed!
Why and how criminally tainted candidates get elected in this country so easily? It is only about 15 years ago now that the Election Commission of India (ECI) made it compulsory to swear an Affidavit giving details of criminal cases against candidates and details of wealth – movable and immovable. The Affidavit is sworn in by the candidate himself – ie the information given in the affidavit is authentic. However, the information given in the Affidavits remains only in the office of ECI. The citizens of a particular Constituency, many a time, are totally unaware of the deeds of the candidates because whatever the candidate has sworn in the Affidavit is not brought to the notice of the voters in the Constituency. Organisations like NEW and ADR make use of such information to enlighten the voter. Unfortunately, only a few educated citizens get the message from the analysis made by NEW and ADR.
Yet another reason why persons with criminal backgrounds easily become MPs, MLAs or MLCs is the greedy and selfish nature of the voter. There are voters in this country who will vote for anybody provided their greed is satisfied. Money power is used to garner votes. Greedy voters accept money from all the candidates and finally vote for those candidates who according to them will continue to keep them contented throughout his/her term. Such voters have no concern for the society, the state or the country. Such a voter is a huge disadvantage to the society, state and country. Such voters play a crucial role in electing candidates with criminal background.
Another type of voter is the one who expects favouritism from the candidates in kind. These voters get their personal works done illegally with the influence of the elected person. The elected representatives unscrupulously bend laws to help this selfish voter. The promise of a job too is very common to get votes from the unemployed. Sponsoring sporting or cultural activities is another way to woo youth.
There is yet another type is the poor and helpless. They cannot afford to have one decent meal a day. They have no shelter. They live for that day only. Such people are targets of tainted candidates. They lure them with food, clothing and money and fall prey to the machinations of candidates easily. If due to some reasons these people do not fall in line, candidates use brute force, threatening them with dire consequences. Being poor they are left with no choice.
Although this grim scenario is disturbing, there are sincere and selfless voters because of whom we have the other untainted two-third legislators. This is a good sign. But strict measures to lessen the number of criminals in Parliament and State Assemblies need to be taken.
Publicising contents of the Affidavit of every candidate in English and in the local languages will go a long way in bringing criminal acts of the candidate before the electorate of that constituency. Such a campaign during the election is necessary to give voters correct information on one hand and to expose criminal acts of the candidate on the other hand. Such awareness may enlighten the voters and they may cast their votes for an upright candidate.
There is also a need to make the voter accountable. Corrupt voter is a nuisance to the society. It is the corrupt voter who elects the corrupt candidate. Therefore strict measures need to be devised to severely punish the corrupt voters too. Then only we may get the opportunity to say that our Parliaments and State Assemblies have no MPs, MLAs and MLCs with criminal backgrounds.