New Indian Express:
Diana Sahu

Of the 28 Assembly segments, 12 have been tagged as ‘red alert constituencies’

Of the 243 candidates of various political parties contesting in the first phase of Assembly elections in Odisha, 65 have criminal cases pending against them. Of them, 48 are facing serious criminal cases.

This was pointed out by Odisha Election Watch and Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), an election watchdog, on Monday. It analysed affidavits of all the 243 contesting candidates of 28 Assembly constituencies going to polls on May 13. Among the major parties, 18 out of the 28 candidates who were analysed were from BJP, 17 of 28 from Congress, nine of 28 from BJD and three of 11 from AAP. They have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits.

The criteria for serious criminal cases, as per the report, includes offences for which maximum punishment is five years or more and if an offence is non-bailable. It also includes crimes against women and those related to loss to exchequer and corruption.

Around 54 per cent (15) of the 28 BJP candidates, 36 per cent (10) of Congress, 27 per cent (3 ) out of 11 analysed from AAP and 14 per cent (4) of 28 analysed from BJD have declared serious criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits. Interestingly, Kalinga Sena has projected one candidate and he has serious criminal cases pending against him.

Moreover, of the 28 Assembly constituencies, 12 have been tagged as ‘red alert constituencies’, which means in each of these seats, three or more contesting candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves.

The report further indicated violation of the Supreme Court (SC) directive on selection of candidates with criminal backgrounds. The apex court in a ruling on February 13, 2020 had specifically instructed political parties to give reasons for selection of candidates with criminal backgrounds and why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.

As per the mandatory guidelines, the reasons for such selection has to be with reference to qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned. The report stated that in selection of candidates for phase-1 Assembly elections, there are 27 per cent to 64 per cent candidates belonging to all the major parties who have declared criminal cases against themselves.

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