Criminals in Indian Politics
This is a guest blog by Satbir.
India, the world’s largest democracy, in which the power to choose their rulers lies with the people, is today having a large number of criminals in powerful positions. The affidavits submitted to the Election Commission by contesting candidates before 2014 Lok Sabha elections showed that 10% of the total 5,380 candidates were convicted in some serious crimes like rape and murder. 34% of present Lok Sabha MPs have criminal records.
The phenomenon of criminals influencing elections began in the 1960’s. Criminals undertook booth capturing, threatening opposition voters and so on to help a politician retain power. As the probability of re-election of such candidates reduced, criminals could not be assured of retaining their influence on the elected representatives. Thus criminals started contesting elections themselves. The socio-political system, weakness of the Election Commission and the legal system supported this phenomenon. It is obvious that when criminals become law makers governance of a country will be adversely affected. This is the state today and we need to find ways to end criminalization of politics.
Promotion of Criminals
Muscle power– Politicians take support of criminals to win elections. Both the politicians as well as criminals benefit. The criminals need the patronage of the politicians to continue with their criminal activities and the politicians need the muscle power of the criminals to win elections.
Corruption– In 1969 corporate funding to political parties was banned by Indira. This started the culture of black money donations. This ban was lifted by Rajiv in 1985 but the culture of inflow of black money to political parties continued. Once criminals realized that some of the politicians that they supported through black money may not win and their return on investment would be zero they started directly fighting elections. Once the freedom struggle born politicians like Morarji Desai, who used to return the unspent allowance on foreign trips, left the scene career politicians ruled the roost. Politics became financially the most lucrative industry and continue to be so today. Candidates spend huge sums of money in campaigning for the elections and like any businessperson seek to double or triple the investment through patronage once in power.
The Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgment on July, 2013 banning politicians with criminal records from contesting elections.
In March 2017, regretting that that its proposals for electoral reforms and decriminalization of politics remain pending before the government, the Election Commission had supported in Supreme Court a demand to bar convicted politicians for life from contesting polls.
In Nov 2017, in a big step to weed out politicians with criminal record, the Supreme Court had told the centre to come with a plan to set up exclusive special courts for the country’s more than 1,500 lawmakers who faced criminal cases in 2014.
Twelve exclusive special courts, set up in 11 states, are scheduled to start hearing criminal cases against 1,581 parliamentarians and lawmakers of different states from 1 Mar 2018. The fast-track hearing is expected to be completed by March next year, days ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Political Parties Will Always Support Criminals
Political parties will always support criminals. The reasons are enumerated:
- The chances of criminals getting elected are high.
- Black money is required for elections.
- When legal system is weak, as it exists today, people prefer criminals (strongmen) who have reputation of delivering quick justice, outside the legal system. A large number of people support the ‘false encounter killings’ of criminals in UP promoted by Yogi.
Solution: Public Pressure, Election Commission & Judiciary
From the above discussion it would be apparent that political parties are unlikely to end criminalization of politics. Thus cleaning up of politics will have to be effected through public pressure, Judiciary and the EC. The following measures need to be instituted:
- Political funding must come under the ambit of the RTI Act.
- Criminals should be barred from elections for life.
- All cases against MPs & MLAs should be decided within one year.
- There should be state funding of elections.