The Pioneer

Politics and criminal activity go hand-in-hand in the border state of Punjab. For, one-fourth of the total candidates, contesting February 20 polls, have criminal antecedents, including four facing charges of murder, two rape cases, while 33 others were booked under attempt to murder. And of the total 117 assembly segments, 57 — almost half — have three or more candidates with criminal cases in the fray.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s directions and Election Commission’s effort to decriminalize the election process, Punjab polls, this time, have witnessed an almost three-fold increase in the number of candidates with criminal cases, as compared to the previous elections. Of the total, 25 percent of the total contesting candidates have criminal antecedents as compared to the nine percent in 2017. What is more, a total of 218 (17 percent) candidates have declared “serious” criminal charges against them including murder, attempt to murder, rape, criminal intimidation, violence, forgery, among others; which was 77 (seven percent) five years ago.

Among the mainstream political parties, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has the highest 68 percent candidates with criminal cases, followed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with 50 percent, BJP 38 percent, SAD (Sanyukt) 29 percent, BSP 15 percent, Congress 14 percent, and Punjab Lok Congress with 11 percent of its candidates declaring criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits.

The findings were part of the report prepared by the Punjab Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) after analyzing the self-sworn affidavits of 1,276 candidates out of the total 1,304 who are contesting Punjab Assembly elections. Punjab Election Watch and ADR have not analyzed 28 candidates as their affidavits were either badly scanned or complete affidavits were not uploaded on the ECI website.

Out of the 1,276 candidates analyzed, 228 are from national parties, 256 are from state parties, 345 are from registered unrecognised parties, and 447 are contesting independently.

Among the 17 percent of the total 1,276 candidates analyzed, 15 have declared cases related to crime against women, including two — Atam Nagar sitting MLA Simarjeet Singh Bains and his brother Ludhiana South MLA Balvinder Singh Bains — facing rape charges. Four — Simarjeet Bains, AAP candidate from Jalandhar West (SC) Sheetal Angural, independent candidate from Majitha Jasmeet Singh Randhawa, and Lok Insaaf Party candidate from Phagwara (SC) Jarnail Nangal District — have declared cases related to murder against themselves; while 33 have declared cases related to attempt to murder.

Among the candidates facing “serious” charges, Lok Insaaf Party president Simarjeet Bains is topping the list who is facing 15 different cases of 18 “serious” charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Congress candidate from Bhucho Mandi (SC) Pritam Singh Kotbhai is facing a total of four cases, with 11 serious charges. SAD president and party’s candidate from Jalalabad Sukhbir Singh Badal is third in the list with total of seven cases, facing seven “serious” charges — including criminal intimidation, undue influence or personation at an election (Section-171F), theft (Section-379), mischief by injury to public road, bridge, river or channel (Section-431), among others — besides 27 other sections of IPC.

“The Supreme Court’s directions have had no effect on the political parties in the selection of candidates in Punjab assembly elections this time as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to around 25 percent candidates with criminal cases. All major parties contesting in Punjab elections have given tickets to 11 to 68 percent candidates who have declared criminal cases against themselves,” said ADR’s state coordinator Parvinder Singh Kittna, while releasing the report.

He pointed out that the Supreme Court, in its directions on February 13, 2020, had specifically instructed the political parties to give reasons for such selection and why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates. “As per these mandatory guidelines, the reasons for such selection have to be with reference to qualifications, achievements, and merit of the candidate concerned. During the recent six State Assembly elections held in 2020-21, it was observed that political parties gave unfounded and baseless reasons like the popularity of the person, does good social work, cases are politically motivated etc, which are not sound and cogent reasons for fielding candidates with tainted backgrounds,” added Kitna.

He said that the data clearly shows that political parties have no interest in reforming the electoral system and our democracy will continue to suffer at the hands of lawbreakers who become lawmakers.


Highlighting the significance of money power in elections, the report observed that all major political parties have given tickets to the “wealthy” crorepati candidates. Of the total, 521 (41 percent) of the 1,276 candidates analyzed are crorepatis — witnessing a rise from 428 (37 percent) of the 1,145 candidates who contested 2017 polls. Among the major parties, 89 (93 percent) of the 96 candidates analyzed from SAD, 107 (92 percent) of Congress' 117 candidates, 60 (85 percent) of BJP's 71 candidates, 16 (80 percent) of the 20 BSP's candidates, 11 (79 percent) of the SAD (Sanyukt)14 candidates, 81 (69 percent) of the AAP's 117 candidates, and 16 (59 percent) of the 27 candidates analyzed from the Punjab Lok Congress have declared assets over `1 crore.

The average value of assets per candidate this year is `4.31 crore, up from `3.49 crore in 2017. The candidates with the highest assets are AAP candidate from Mohali Kulwant Singh at `238 crore, followed by Sukhbir Badal (Jalalabad) at `202 crore, and Congress candidate from Muktsar Karan Kaur Brar at `155 crore. Interestingly, five candidates — all independents — have declared zero assets. A realtor-cum-politician Kulwant Singh has also declared the highest annual income at `16.33 crore, followed by an AAP candidate from Sunam Aman Arora at `5.66 crore, and state Finance Minister and Congress candidate from Bathinda Urban Manpreet Singh Badal at `3.15 crore.


More than half of the total contesting candidates, who’ll be trying their luck in 2022 state assembly polls, have not even reached to the graduation level. 695 (54 percent) candidates have education up to Class XII, which includes 21 “literate” and 49 “illiterate” candidates, 75 who have studied up to the primary level (Class V), 118 up to middle (Class VIII), while 263 of them have completed their matric (Class X), and 239 surpassed the senior secondary level (Class XII). while candidates are graduates or above. Twenty-four candidates are diploma holders, while 21 have declared themselves to be just literate and 49 candidates are illiterate. Four have not mentioned their educational qualification. Among the rest, 199 are graduates, another 141 are graduate professionals, and 135 have done the post-graduate, while eight of them have done their doctorate.

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