The Times of India

Despite the best efforts of the Election Commission, activists and judiciary, money and muscle power continue to rule electoral politics in India. This gains support from the fact that voters in Jharkhand chose criminals over candidates with a clean background as their representatives in the past assembly and parliamentary elections. While 30% candidates, contesting the assembly and parliamentary elections since 2004 had a criminal background, of the elected representatives this figure jumped to 56%.

The National Election Watch (NEW) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has jointly analyzed the background of all the candidates contesting assembly and parliamentary elections in Jharkhand since 2004, the period from which the EC made declaration of assets and criminal cases mandatory for contesting polls.

These organizations have separately analyzed the successful candidates for their criminal activities and assets. According to a report issued by ADR, as many as 1761 candidates contested either parliamentary or state assembly elections since 2004, of which 525 (30%) candidates had declared criminal cases against them.

An overview of the background of those elected reveals a different picture. Of the 189 elected representatives analyzed, 104 of them corresponding to 56% of the total elected members had criminal cases pending against them, by their own admission. Of the 104 MP/MLAs, as many as 48 corresponding to 25% have serious criminal charges against them.

Sudhir Pal, the convener for Jharkhand election watch, said they have carried out a simple analysis of the affidavits submitted by the candidates without going for any specific investigation. "It is by their own admission that the candidates accepted criminal charges pending against them and our findings have revealed that these charges do nor act as a deterrent for voters," he said, adding that public awareness is essential so that they cast their vote for the right person. "We are going to launch a national campaign ahead of the 2014 parliamentary elections so that voters are not influenced by money power," he addeds. NEW and ADR have already started writing to the political parties requesting them to give tickets to candidates with a clean image.

At 42%, JMM has the highest number of MP/MLA with criminal cases. RJD and Congressfollows next with 36% and 26% representatives having criminal cases. BJP has 11% of its representatives with a criminal background.

JMM central secretary Suprio Bhattacharya admitted that no party can survive in Jharkhand if they decide to blacklist candidates with criminal cases. "In politics, a large number of cases are politically motivated. Therefore, rejecting tickets on that basis is not possible," he said. BJP leaders, on the other hand, find their house cleaner. "We have the least number of elected members with criminal background and the process of further cleansing is on," said Pradeep Sinha, spokesperson for Jharkhand BJP. He pointed finger to Congress and also blamed it on the lack of awareness among voters who cast votes on temporary issues ignoring long term concerns.

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