New Delhi

The results of a study made by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch on the electoral performance of candidates with criminal records and money power in relation to others are revealing. It found that a candidates with criminal cases against him stands a 23 per cent of winning an election while a clean candidate had only a 12 per cent possibility. The analysis was based on records of 7,950 MPs and MLAs who have won elections since 2004 and is therefore exhaustive and credible.

It also found that 74 per cent of candidates with criminal records got tickets from their parties to contest again. The assets of a legislator on an average multiplied 10 times during a single term. The figures could give a more unsavoury picture if the performance of candidates at lower level elections were also taken into consideration because politics at those levels is considered to be more tainted.

The study yet again underlines the unhealthy correlation between crime, money and politics which has degraded public life. We are familiar with figures that show what percentages of elected representatives are tainted by crime and corruption. But the high statistical possibility of a criminal winning the elections shows how the electorate is also responsible for encouraging criminality. If the choice to elect a clean candidate rather than a criminal is not exercised, the wisdom of the voters comes into question. But since the political labels of candidates, caste loyalties and other factors also come into play the electorate’s sense of discrimination often takes a back seat. Candidates with money and muscle power often outdo others in reaching out to the voter and making themselves more visible. This too has an impact on voter behaviour.

In competitive politics the most important criterion for parties in the selection of  their candidates is winnability. They have realised, long before the study has found, that a candidate with a criminal record, and one who has better resources is more capable of bringing a seat to the party’s kitty than a clean person. Implementation of the recent Supreme Court decision that members of legislature would lose their seats when they are convicted might help to some extent to limit the entry of criminals into the electoral arena.

But legal means cannot alone address the problem. There is the need to increase the awareness of the people of their own responsibility in cleansing politics. This is a slow and difficult process.

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