The Economic Times
NEW DELHI: As political parties gear up for Bihar Assembly elections, a closer look at the track record of the chosen few reveals a rather grim picture. An independent study reveals that the main political parties have chosen a number of candidates-in some cases almost 50%-who have criminal cases pending against them. 

A study conducted by National Election Watch has thrown up startling facts. Candidates who have murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping for ransom, theft, robbery and dacoity cases pending against them have been fielded. No political party, including Congress, which has been claiming that it is not giving tickets to candidates with criminal background, has a clean slate. Major players like BJP, Congress, Lok Janshakti Party, RJDJanata Dal (United) have all fielded candidates with serious Indian Penal Code (IPC) cases pending against them. 

National Election Watch used information provided in affidavits filed by candidates in 2005 Bihar Assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha elections to find out about criminal background of candidates. BJP has declared 87 candidates and the research found 66 affidavit records. Of the 66 candidates scrutinised 41 had criminal cases - serious and minor IPC charges - pending against them. What is even more shocking is that of the 66 records examined, 21 had serious cases related to murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping for ransom, dacoity, theft pending againt them and the remaining 20 had minor IPC cases like wrongful restraint, forgery, cheating, criminal conspiracy, cheating, criminal breach of trust, trespassing, rioting, threatening an election officer and unlawful assembly. 

Lok Janshakti Party's track record is quite shocking. In fact, the most number of criminal cases pending are against its candidate from Rupauli in Purnea district, Shankar Singh. He has 36 cases pending against him with serious IPC offenses like 12 charges of murder and 17 attempt to murder charges. Janata Dal (United) candidate from Baniapur finishes a close second with 29 cases (including eight murder charges) pending against him. Of the 38 candidates declared by the party, records of 15 were available. Of these, eight have criminal cases pending against them. 

Even BJP's alliance partner JD (U) has a similar track record. The research examined records 52 of 73 candidates declared and found 17 (10 serious IPCs and 7 other IPCs) with criminal cases. In case of RJD, 9 of 29 candidates have criminal cases. The sample size for Congress was quite small. Of the 77 candidates declared in the first list, the researchers could find records only for 21. Of these 21, five were found to have criminal cases. These include incarcerated former JD (U) MP Anand Mohan's wife Lovely Anand, who has recently joined Congress. 

As per rules, a candidate who has criminal cases pending against him and has not been convicted of a crime which carries an imprisonment of more more than two years can contest an election. There is a ray of hope for electors as the 2002 Right to Information amendment in the Representation of the People Act 1951, has ensured that those who contest are obliged to declare their criminal background. 

What is interesting is that even though all political parties have supported removing criminals from politics, there is no real action. Earlier this year at Election Commission's diamond jubilee celebration, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had said that a consensus needed to be built to debar people with criminal backgrounds from contesting elections.
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