If elections are to be described as a process to elect better leaders for the country, the ongoing elections in India are of a very different variety.
A number of convicted felons, gang members with long criminal history and leaders accused of violent crime (murder, attempted murder, armed robbery) – villains in every sense are going to the people asking for their vote.
Abdullah Khan, says “this nexus of politicians and criminals is bane for great Indian democracy.” He provides a list of criminals turned politicians, most of whom hail from troubled states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
“In UP only, BSP’s candidates with an alleged criminal past are Dhananjay Singh (Jaunpur), Aruna Kumar Shukla ‘Anna’ (Unnao), D P Yadav (Badaun), Kadir Rana (Muzaffarnagar) Rakesh Pandey (Ambedkar Nagar), Rizwan Zahir (Shravasti) etc.
Among the Samajwadi Party’s candidates are Brij Bhushan Singh from Gonda, Rakesh Sachhan from Fatehpur, O P Gupta from Dhaurhara, Mitra Sen Yadav from Faizabad, history-sheeter Mukhtar Ansari (Varanasi) and Bal Kumar (brother of robber Daduwa) from Mirzapur. Seema Parihar, a former robber, is also contesting from Mirzapur on Udit Raj’s Indian Justice Party ticket.
In Maharashtra, gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from the North Central Mumbaiparliamentary constituency. In West Bengal, ‘bahubali’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary is in the fray from Berhampore on Congress party’s ticket. In Bihar, JD(U) has given Lok Sabha ticket to Vijay Kumar Shukla alias Munna (a criminal-turned-politician). Lok JanShakti Party has also given ticket to alleged criminal, Rama Singh, an accused in many criminal cases, from Ara.”
The list of criminals turned politicians is long, and the political parties are accused of encouraging and accepting the felons. Avinash Narula says that getting rid of criminal politicians is not an easy task because of the “cooperation” between them and the power circle. He says that the ‘Lead India” campaign launched by Times of India to ask citizines not to vote for criminals will not succeed because:
“Most of the politicians will not be convicted because of a number of reason. There is a nexus between politicians, cops and criminals. On top of this the courts take years to decide on a case which allows the criminals to keep on contesting elections and winning based on goondagiri (highhandedness).
So do you think Lead India Campaign against criminals in politics will have any effect? I don’t think so.
First, getting criminals out of politics is not in the agenda or manifesto of any major political party. Forget, forget about removing criminals from politics, they are not even talking about doing anything about corruption.
Second, we need to change the law but again we cannot do this without the politicians.
Third, we need to expedite the legal process which also we cannot do.”
In city of Varanasi, holy city for Hindus, election battle sure looks like a movie script. A person accused for murder (who just happens to be a Muslim) is pitted against a party veteran who is known as a Hindu hardliner. BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi will be battling against Mukhtar Ansari, who was accused for murder and is currently in a jail. Ansari is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate.
Citizens are sounding alarm on muddied political environment not only through blogs but also through videos. At YouTube, there are a number of videos urging citizens not to accept criminals as election candidates.
In this video, No criminals, youngsters ask fellow citizens not to vote for criminals. It also has some parts in Hindi, where people ask political parties not field criminals. More interesting are the slides which list charges against some candidates.
This video titled No criminals Hindi, has a similar message.
This post is part of the Global Voices special coverage on Indian Elections 2009