The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its first list of 184 candidates for the Lok Sabha election on Thursday and the attention is focused on the 'big wigs' who have been retained to make good on the party's ticket. Records show, however, that at least 35 of 78 BJP leaders who have been re-nominated have criminal cases filed against them.
The 35 BJP candidates — 19 percent of the party's total candidates for the upcoming General Elections — declared criminal cases against them in 2014. The remaining 106 candidates could not be analysed in data compiled by this News18 report due to the lack of nomination papers which also include self-sworn affidavits declaring the number of criminal cases against them. However, the report said, that the number of candidates with criminal cases against them is "expected to rise" after the rest of the candidates file their nominations.
Myneta.info, a website run by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), compiles all available information about candidates and politicians across the political spectrum in India. According to records released by the portal, the BJP candidate with the highest number of criminal cases till 2014 is Hansraj Gangaram Ahir from the Chandrapur constituency in Maharashtra, with a total of 11 cases. A member of the 16th Lok Sabha, Ahir is currently holding the post of Minister of State for Home Affairs.
Following Ahir with 10 cases against him, is Odisha's Pratap Sarangi from the Balasore constituency, reports said. A BJP stalwart and Union minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari — who has been retained for the Nagpur Lok Sabha constituency — is also in the list with five criminal cases against him till 2014.
In 2014, ADR analysed records of members of the 16th Lok Sabha and found that BJP MPs topped the list with at least 98 of the total 282 winning candidates had criminal cases against them. "A candidate with a criminal background was almost twice more likely to win than a candidate with no criminal background. The winning chances of a candidate with criminal background were 13 percent, while those of a candidate with no criminal background were 5 percent."
In the outgoing Parliament, there were 186 lawmakers facing criminal charges or being investigated — some 112 of them involving serious cases such as murder or rape. This time, candidates under a legal cloud have to issue three newspaper and TV advertisements detailing any charges they face in the constituency where they're standing.
Candidates have to declare income and tax returns for the past five years — the information is made public before the vote — as well as submit details any of the assets and liabilities in their name abroad.
In September 2018, the Supreme Court, headed by then-Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra passed a verdict on the disqualification of MPs and MLAs against whom a chargesheet has been filed, and said that the apex court is "not in a position" to order the disqualification of 'tainted' politicians. However, the bench also issued a list of directions to curb the problem.
Asserting that corruption has become a "national economic terror", the apex court held that each candidate shall declare his/her criminal antecedents to the Election Commission before contesting an election.
A 5-judge Constitution bench said that citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates. The verdict was unanimously passed by a bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra. The bench also said that the criminalisation of politics of the largest democracy is "unsettling".
The bench said that political parties are obligated to put all the information about their candidates on their websites. It asked the legislature to consider framing a law to ensure decriminalisation of politics. The bench said that informed choice is the cornerstone of democracy.
The apex court put the onus on the Parliament, to decide on action against politicians with criminal cases pending against them. The bench said "decriminalisation" of politics "is important" but that the Court cannot "legislate on behalf of the Parliament". The bench also said that a chargesheet against a politician is not enough grounds for disqualification.
The apex court favoured wider publicity, through print and electronic media about the antecedents of candidates affiliated to political parties.
However, in January 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to the Election Commission to not allow any member of a political party with criminal antecedent to contest elections.
Narendra Modi to fight 2019 Lok Sabha election from Varanasi, Amit Shah from Gandhinagar
The party with the largest majority in the Lower House of Parliament released its first list of candidates after hectic meetings of its central election committee (CEC). Prime Minister Narendra Modi will contest the Lok Sabha election from Varanasi, the seat he represents in Parliament, and BJP president Amit Shah will fight from Gandhinagar in place of veteran leader LK Advani, party leader JP Nadda said.
BJP heavyweights such as Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari have been fielded from Lucknow and Nagpur seats respectively with the party reposing its faith in almost all Union ministers for the constituencies they had won in 2014.
Union minister Smriti Irani will reprise her electoral battle with Congress president Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, where she had lost to him in 2014 but was seen to have put up a spirited fight.
The biggest surprise in the first list is dropping of Advani, the 91-year-old party stalwart who called the shots in the BJP for decades before Modi's rise eclipsed him, from Gandhinagar and Shah's decision to make his Lok Sabha poll debut from the constituency. Advani has been representing Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha since 1998 and Shah was incidentally his poll manager in initial elections.
The BJP believes that Shah's candidature will signal the party president's intent to lead from the front and also energise workers, especially in Gujarat where it is facing a resurgent Congress. It is also now unlikely that Modi will fight from the state. He had won from Vadodara in 2014 as well but resigned from there and kept Varanasi.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2019 11:35:34 IST