The Print

Almost 25 per cent of all candidates who have filed affidavits for the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh elections have criminal records, according to data released by the NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

The data further showed that 20 per cent of them have cases of serious crimes, including murder, rape and attempt to murder, pending against them. The findings were released by ADR Wednesday, as part of its Election Watch programme.

The association, which said it studied as many as 615 affidavits out of a total of 623 filed by candidates in 58 constituencies, commented that all major political parties continue to give tickets to those with “money and muscle power”, irrespective of criminal records. While 156 candidates of the 615 studied have criminal cases pending against them, 121 (20 per cent) have declared that they are accused in cases of  murder, attempt to murder and rape.

This, despite the Supreme Court’s repeated efforts to “decriminalise” politics, the NGO pointed out.

In August last year, the apex court had directed all political parties to publish the criminal antecedents of candidates within 48 hours of their selection. Earlier too, in February 2020, ahead of the Bihar assembly elections, the SC had directed all parties to publish the criminal history of candidates on their websites and social media handles, and explain why such candidates were being given tickets.

ADR coordinator Santosh Srivastava told ThePrint that no party seems to be taking the Supreme Court’s directions seriously. “Money and muscle power continue to be associated with candidates of all major political parties. This is happening despite the Supreme Court directions,” he said.

Srivastava added that an analysis by the ADR last year had revealed that 35 per cent of 396 sitting UP legislators had criminal cases pending against them.

ThePrint also approached some of the political parties in UP to gauge their reaction on ADR’s findings, but most dismissed the cases against their candidates as being “politically motivated”.

Party-wise break-up

Counting all criminal cases, not just serious ones, the Samajwadi Party has of 21 of 28 (75 per cent) candidates with such history, while ally Rashtriya Lok Dal has 17 of 29 (59 per cent). Among the BJP candidates, 51 per cent — 29 of 57 candidates examined — have pending criminal cases against them.

For the Congress, the percentage of candidates with criminal records is 36 per cent (21 of 58 candidates), while for the BSP it is 34 per cent (19 of 56), and for the Aam Aadmi Party, 15 per cent (8 of 52 candidates).

Of the total number of candidates with criminal records across parties, 30 are accused of attempt to murder, while six have murder charges pending against them. Twelve of the candidates are accused of crimes against women, one of whom is accused of rape.

“As per the declarations made by the candidates (whose affidavits have been filed for first phase of elections and analysed by ADR), 61 per cent of SP candidates, 52 per cent of RLD candidates, 39 per cent of BJP candidates, 19 per cent of Congress candidates, 29 per cent of BSP candidates and 10 per cent AAP candidates have declared that they are facing serious criminal charges,” the ADR said in a statement Wednesday.

Only 12 of the candidates are women. Forty-nine per cent candidates are graduates.

The analysis further stated that almost 46 per cent of the candidates fielded by the parties have declared assets worth more than Rs 1 crore. The BJP and RLD have the maximum number of candidates in this category, it said.

“55 of 57 (97 per cent) BJP candidates, 28 out of 29 (97 per cent) RLD candidates, 50 of 56 (89.3 per cent) BSP candidates, 23 of 28 (82 per cent) SP candidates, 32 of 58 (55 per cent) Congress candidates, and 22 of 52 (42 per cent) AAP candidates fall in this category,” the report stated.

According to the findings, the three richest candidates are Amit Agrawal (BJP, Meerut Cantt) with declared assets worth Rs 148 crore, S.K. Sharma (BSP, Mathura) with assets worth Rs 112 crore, and Rahul Yadav (SP, Sikandrabad) with assets worth Rs 100 crore.

Parties dismiss charges

Political parties have, however, dismissed the criminal charges against their candidates as being “politically motivated”, and claimed that they are not a reflection of their characters.

SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary told ThePrint that many of the cases lodged against his party’s candidates were filed under the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government. “Our national president Akhilesh Yadav himself has faced charges of violation of Section 144 of CrPC for meetings,” he said.

RLD national spokesperson Mohammad Islam echoed the SP’s thoughts on “motivated” criminal cases, and added that it was normal for candidates to be “crorepatis” or financially well off. “Our party gives tickets to one who deserves. It has given tickets to the poor too,” he said.

BJP state spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said that just filing of cases doesn’t mean anything, and one should check whether charges have been framed. “The number of criminal cases against a candidate does not reflect his or her character. These reports do not show the real picture, because in several cases, it needs to be checked whether the charges have been framed and what’s the progress in the case,” he said.

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