The Times Of India
Sanjay Sharma

Politics is the last refuge for a scoundrel and his comfortable resort in Punjab is a political party. Data released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Punjab Election Watch (PEW) has revealed that out of 77 recontesting candidates, 18 - including top leaders of both the Congress (Amarinder Singh) and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sukhbir Badal) - are facing charges yet leading their parties.

The main opposition Congress has an unusual distinction of fielding the largest number of those facing criminal charges as 10 of their nominees are facing cases. SAD has fielded seven candidates with criminal record, including Sohan Singh Thandal, who has been convicted in a case. BJP has fielded only one candidate facing a case. Five recontesting MLAs out of the total 77 have serious criminal cases pending against them. INC candidates have five serious IPC cases against them while MLAs from SAD have two serious IPC cases against them. According to ADR, the 2002-2007 assembly had 20 MLAs facing criminal charges.

This analysis does not include those who are first-timers but have criminal record. While probity campaigners and the Election Commission of India (ECI) have been pleading with the government to bar those who have been convicted or those against whom charges have been framed by a court six months before the elections, both the Congress and SAD have fielded candidates who have been convicted, apparently taking the same old plea that a person is innocent till his or her conviction is proved by the Supreme Court.

The political parties are showing the audacity of fielding tainted people at a time when Anna Hazare movement had built opinion against nominating corrupt and criminals as candidates. "It seems, the only way fielding people with taint could be stopped is their trial in fast track courts so that the voter does not have to face a tough choice he may have to make with major claimants to power depending on the people with criminal record," PEW's coordinator Jaskirat told TOI.

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