–Written By Shreya Mishra
Quoting John Maxwell, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another”. Therefore, we can say that a political leader has an influencing capability and that’s why it’s also said the leaders should have a clean character. India being the largest democracy in the world has something altogether different to serve. The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) presented a data about the 17th Lok Sabha Elections that nearly half of the newly elected members have criminal charges against them. That is to say, there is an increase of 26% of such people from 2014 Elections. Of the 539 winning candidates, 233 MPs or 43% have criminal charges. The BJP has 116 MPs (39%) of its winning candidates with criminal cases, followed by 29 MPs (57%) from the Congress, 13 (81%) from the JDU, 10(43%) from the DMK and 9(41%) from the TMC. Nearly 29% of the cases are related to rape, murder, attempt to murder or crime against women and there is an increase of 109% in the number of MPs with declared Serious criminal cases since 2009. Not only this, our political parties are united by such records. One Dean Kuriakose from the Congress, who won from Idukki constituency in Kerala has 204 criminal cases against him including culpable homicide, house trespass, robbery, and many more. The bigger question is, why do the voters favour them despite their tainted past? On this political scientist Milan Vaishnav, after studying the links between crime and democracy in India, says that a key factor motivating parties to select candidates with serious criminal records comes down to cold, hard cash. The rising cost of election financing system where parties prefer “self-financing candidates who do not represent a drain on the finite party coffers but instead contribute ‘rents’ to the party”. Wealthy, self financing candidates are not only attractive to parties but they are likely to be more electorally competitive. Dr Vaishnav found that candidates with criminal records had an 18% chance of winning their next election whereas the “clean” candidates had only a 6% chance. He believes reasonably well-informed voters support criminal candidates in constituencies where social divisions driven by caste and/or religion are sharp and the government is failing to carry out its functions- delivering services, dispensing justice, or providing securities in an impartial manner. And it is believed by him that crime and Politics will remain inextricably intertwined as long as India doesn’t make its election financing system transparent. PM Narendra Modi has also suggested state funding of polls to help clean up campaign financing.
“When power is married to money, it gives birth to corruption”. Dr. S.Y. Quraishi and Shri Satya Narain Sahu opined that the main source of corruption is Election expenses. A committee was set up in 1964 by the then Home Minister of India, Shri Lal Bahadur Shashtri named as the Santhanam Committee on prevention of corruption and stated that the conduct of political parties should be regulated by making strict principles in relation to the collection of funds and electioneering.
One of the view to reduce the criminalization in politics is to bring the political parties under the purview of the Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 as by this they will be obliged to be transparent in every process of election from funding till the election symbol. Under Article 102 of the Constitution of India, it provides for the disqualification of the MPs on certain basis. And the Representation of the people’s Act, 1951 limits in regard to the same but only after being proved guilty. As far as the Indian Judiciary is concerned on this issue, a PIL was filed before the apex court in 2011 which sought disqualification of candidates in electoral fray who have been charge sheeted for serious and heinous offences attracting sentence of 5 years or more. To which the 5-judges bench of the Supreme Court, putting the onus on the Parliament, stated that whether lawmakers facing criminal charges be barred from contesting elections or should they be disqualified only after conviction, should be left to the Parliament to enact a law.
Again, it is only circumscribed in these criminal representatives and their leadership. What can be done is, how come their cases Being resolved in the fast track courts especially established for this purpose. In a case before the SC, named, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay V Union of India & Anr., The SC directed the government to set up 12 special courts across 11 states & Delhi.
As the concept of presumption of innocence until proved guilty is followed in India. We cannot bar such political activities in the politics so stringently. What they say, our constitution gives its people a legal right not only to vote but to contest in Elections as well. But if we say we have been given political freedom to suffrage, we should be cautious enough! Shouldn’t we?