Twenty three percent of candidates contesting the first phase of the Bihar elections have serious criminal charges including murder, attempt to murder and rape, pending against them, an analysis by election watchdog Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) has revealed.
The watchdog said it had analysed the self-sworn election affidavits of 1,064 out of 1,066 candidates contesting phase one of the election on October 28 in 71 assembly constituencies spread over 16 districts of Bihar. Of these 1,064, the watchdog said in a press release, 328 (31%) candidates were found facing criminal cases with 244 (23%) facing serious criminal cases.
Among candidates with serious criminal charges, 29 have declared cases related to crime against women, which includes three candidates booked for rape. Another 21 candidates have declared cases related to murder against themselves while 62 have declared cases related to attempt to murder (IPC Section-307).
The Rashtriya Janata Dal(RLD), part of the Grand Alliance has fielded the largest number of candidates (22) with serious criminal charges against them followed by the Lok Janshakti Party (20), BJP (13), JD-U (10) and the Congress (9). Overall, the RJD has fielded 30 candidates with criminal cases followed by LJP (24), BJP (21), JD (U) 15 and Congress (12).
The Supreme Court had made it mandatory for political parties to publicise their criminal antecedents, apart from declaring it in affidavits filed at the time of nominations. The Election Commission of India had last month made it mandatory for candidates to publicise it thrice.
“The directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on the political parties in selection of candidates as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to around 31% candidates with criminal cases,” ADR said in the press release.
The Supreme Court, in its directions on February, 13 2020, had specifically instructed political parties to give reasons for such selection and why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates. As per these mandatory guidelines, the reason for such selection has to be with reference to qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned.
“Therefore, such unfounded and baseless reasons given by political parties like popularity of the person, does good social work, cases are politically motivated etc are not sound reasons for fielding candidates with tainted backgrounds. This data clearly shows that political parties have no interest in reforming the electoral system and our democracy will continue to suffer at the hands of lawbreakers who become lawmakers,” it said.
In the 243-member outgoing Bihar Assembly, 240 are serving MLAs. Of these, 80 are from RJD, 69 from JD (U), 54 from BJP, 25 from Congress while the remaining 12 are from smaller parties. As many as 136 MLAs across parties have declared that they have criminal cases against them. This includes 94 with serious criminal cases. As many as 11 MLAs have declared cases related to murder while 30 MLAs have declared cases related to attempt to murder. Five MLAs have criminal cases against women pending against them. Among 80 sitting RJD MLAs, 45 have criminal cases against them. This is against 34 out of 69 JD(U) MLAs, 34 out of 54 BJP MLAs and 14 out of 25 Congress MLAs.
Though criminals-turned-politicians have been a staple of every Bihar election since the 1990s where no party has been able to pull off a majority, there was a dip in the number of candidates with criminal records fielded by political parties in the 2015 assembly election. The RJD, for example, did not field candidate Ritlal Rai, who has 33 cases of murder, extortion to name a few, from Danapur. The JD(U) dropped criminal-turned-politician Anant Singh from its list of candidates. Anant Singh, however, won his Mokama seat as an independent. This year, Anant Singh, who has 38 criminal cases including murder and kidnapping pending against him, is the RJD candidate from Mokama. Ritlal Rai, who was recently released from jail, is the RJD candidate from Danapur.
Wives of criminals are also in the fray. Strongman Rama Singh's wife Veena Singh, for example, is a candidate fielded by the RJD. The JD(U) has fielded Manorama Devi, wife of the late Bindi Yadav, a criminal-turned-politician from Atri in Gaya, while BJP has fielded Aruna Devi, wife of criminal Akhilesh Singh, from Warsaliganj in Nawada.
Chirag Paswan’s LJP has fielded Hulas Pandey, the younger brother of criminal-turned-politician Sunil Pandey, from the Brahmpur seat.