Candidates with criminal backgrounds should not be given tickets by political parties, demanded non-government organisations at a news meet today.

Non-government organisations, Association for Democratic Reform and National Election Watch, demanded that political parties and voters take proactive steps to keep the forthcoming Assembly elections free of candidates with pending criminal cases against them.

Anjesh Kumar, state coordinator of National Election Watch, said: “Though Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan claim they want to free the state from the vicious grip of crime, all of them have given tickets to candidates with criminal antecedents.”

According to a report by the non-government organisation, 219 candidates out of a total of 503 have criminal antecedents or have criminal cases lodged against them.

Kumar said: “An attempt must be made to change this trend in the state that has existed since the 2005 Assembly elections.”

He said: “Before releasing their list of candidates, parties must make sure that they do not field any candidates with criminal backgrounds. They should give voters an option of choosing clean candidates as their representatives.”

National Election Watch programme associate Manorama Bakshi said: “Out of these 219 candidates, 129 have serious cases, of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and extortion, lodged against them.”

Bakshi said: “All major candidates have given tickets to candidates with criminal backgrounds.”

She said: “About 68 per cent of BJP’s candidates, 68 per cent of LJP’s candidates, 49 per cent of JD (U)’s candidates, 39 per cent of Congress’s candidates and 38 per cent of BSP’s candidates have criminal background.”

She said: “Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj made statements calling for a consensus on barring candidates with a criminal background.

She also said: “Leaders of other parties have made similar declarations. Now they must enforce what they have been saying.”

Arun Kumar Singh, member of non-government organisation B.R. Ambedkar Harijan Kalyan Parishad, said: “Criminals should be in jail and not contesting elections. The biggest threat to our democracy today is the criminalisation of politics. The parties are doing a great disservice to the nation by giving tickets to these criminals.”

Anjani Kumar, secretary of non-government organisation Nirmaan, said: “Political parties are the pillars of democracy. If they give tickets to lawbreakers and allow them to become lawmakers, we can well imagine the fate of our country.”

Kumar said voters must exercise their voting rights with caution.

Kumar also said: “Voters should be cautious and not vote for any candidate with a criminal background irrespective of which party have nominated him or her.”

According to the report prepared by National Election Watch, JD (U) candidate Manoranjan Singh from Ekma constituency has the maximum number (18) of criminal cases pending against him.

Similarly, RJD candidate Mohhamad Anwarul Haque from Bajpatti constituency has 10 cases, related to attempted murder and extortion, lodged against him.

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