Indian Express
Avinash Nair

In Phase-2 of elections in 2017, 28 per cent of Congress candidates, 26 per cent of BJP candidates and 29 per cent of AAP candidates had criminal records.

In Phase-2 of Gujarat Assembly elections scheduled on December 5, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have the highest number of candidates with criminal cases and Hardik Patel from the BJP has the highest number of 21 cases lodged against him, states a report released by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Monday.

Of the 90 Congress candidates fighting Phase-2 of polls, 29 (32 per cent) have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits filed with the Election Commission. Similarly, of the 93 candidates fighting polls on AAP tickets, 29 of them (31 per cent) are from AAP. In comparison, only 18 of the 93 BJP candidates (19 per cent) have criminal backgrounds.

In Phase-2 of elections in 2017, 28 per cent of Congress candidates, 26 per cent of BJP candidates and 29 per cent of AAP candidates had criminal records. In other words, while the Congress and the AAP have given tickets to more number of criminal candidates for the 2022 elections, the BJP has shown an improvement by scaling down the number of criminal candidates.

However, Hardik Patel, who recently quit Congress and joined the BJP, and is fighting from Viramgam seat in Ahmedabad district, has the highest number of cases lodged against him. He is facing two charges of sedition (IPC Section-395), one charge related to abetment of offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life (IPC Section-115), three charges of rioting (IPC Section-147) and two charges related to punishment for dacoity (IPC section-395), among others.

Hardik was convicted in one case in 2018 when a court in Mehsana punished him with two years jail and Rs 50,000 fine. He has appealed against the conviction.

Among major parties, the second highest number of criminal cases in Phase 2 is against Congress candidate from Vadgam, Jignesh Mewani, with 10 cases. They include two cases for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintainance of harmony (IPC section-153A), two related to voluntarily causing hurt to determine public servant from his duty (IPC section-332) and one related to assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty (IPC section-354). Mewani was convicted in two cases in September 2022 and May 2022, against which he has filed an appeal.

BJP candidate from Gandhinagar South Alpesh Thakor has has six cases against him. The ADR report states that out of the 833 candidates contesting Phase 2 elections, 163 (20 per cent) have criminal cases. In 2017 elections, 101 candidates (12 per cent) had criminal cases. In Phase 1, AAP had highest number of candidates with criminal cases against them.

Crorepati candidates

Of the 833 candidates, 245 (29 per cent) are crorepatis. In 2017, out of 822 candidates, 199 (24 per cent) were crorepatis. Unlike Phase-1 of polls where 89 per cent of the BJP candidates were crorepatis, in Phase-2, 86 per cent of the Congress candidates are crorepatis with 77 of the 90 candidates from the party having assets valued more than Rs 1 crore.

The BJP is not far behind with 81 per cent (75) of their 93 candidates being crorepatis. Only 35 per cent (38 candidates) of the AAP fall in the crorepati category. In second phase of 2017 election, all the three parties had lower percentage of richer candidates (BJP 77 per cent, Congress 76 per cent and AAP 71 per cent).

With Rs 661 crore, JS Patel, BJP candidate from Mansa seat is the richest, followed by his colleague Balvantsinh Rajput contesting from Sidhpur seat has assets worth Rs 372 crore. AAP candidate from Dabhoi Ajitsinh Thakor has assets worth Rs 343 crore. BJP candidate JS Patel also has the highest liabilities of Rs 233 crore.

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