Money power, criminal records of leaders and poor representation of women are dominant features of electoral politics in our country. Out of the 205 candidates across parties in the fray for 31 constituencies in Phase 3 of the assembly elections in West Bengal this year, 33 (or 21 per cent) have assets worth over Rs 1 crore, 53 (or 26 per cent) candidates have criminal cases against themselves, and just 13 (or 6 per cent) are females, according to an analysis by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the West Bengal Election Watch.

Crorepatis in Phase 3 of West Bengal Assembly polls

The analysis of the affidavits filed by the 205 candidates for the third phase of the state assembly polls shows that four of them have declared assets worth over Rs 5 crore while 15 said that the value of their assets is between Rs 2-5 crore. IND’s Samsul Huda Laskar who is contesting from Magrahat Paschim constituency in South 24 Parganas topped the crorepati list, with assets worth over Rs 43 crore, followed by BJP’s Swapan Dasgupta, declaring assets worth more than Rs 6 crore. The average of assets per candidate contesting in the third phase of state assembly polls this year is Rs 78.56 lakhs.

Criminal records of candidates

The analysis shows that the Supreme Court’s directives to eradicate criminalisation of politics have had no effect on political parties, as they have continued with their old practice of fielding candidates with criminal cases. As many as 53 (or 26 per cent) of the 205 candidates contesting in Phase 3 have declared criminal cases against themselves, the analysis shows. Furthermore, 43 candidates have declared serious criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits. Serious criminal cases include offences that attract a punishment of five years or above, electoral malpractices, non-bailable offences, murder, kidnapping and rape charges, Offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, etc.

 “Among the major parties, 19(61%) out of 31 candidates analysed from BJP, 8(62%) out of 13 candidates analysed from CPI(M), 3 (43%) out of 7 candidates analysed from INC, 11 (36%) out of 31 candidates analysed from AITC and 2 (11%) out of 18 candidates analysed from SUCI(C) have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits,” the ADR report stated.

Women representation 

The disgraceful history of gender imbalance in electoral politics continues. In the third phase of West Bengal Assembly polls 2021, only 13 (or 6 per cent) female candidates are contesting. Nearly 11 per cent of candidates in the first phase of polling, which was held on Saturday (March 27), were women. Similarly, just 11 per cent of candidates contesting in the second phase on April 1 are women. 

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