We hang petty thieves and elect criminals to public office. Three stories, one in Delhi which smacks of vindictive politics, corruption or bad policy or all. Second in Bihar and third in Maharashtra which bare India’s ruthless truth: Greed for power whereby an MP and MLA tag is the ultimate ‘bullet proof jacket’ for mafia dons, katils and apradhees. A new ‘don’ (dawn) of criminals banne neta enveloping all Parties after all jo jeeta wohi sikander in our rajniti bazaar!
Delhi’s Dy Chief Minister is raided by CBI for its controversial excise policy now revoked, and an FIR is filed against him and 15 others for rules and procedural violations, cartelization and kickbacks. His innocence or lack of it will only be known after law takes its own course. Sic.
Coming on the heels of AAP’s Health Minister Satyendra Jain already in lock-up for money laundering Kejriwal yells blue murder of Machiavellian vindictive politics by BJP of using ED and CBI against political rivals a la TMC’s Minister Partha Chatterjee, Thackeray Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik. BJP counters by reminding Congress that Congress Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was a caged parrot. A classic case of pot calling the kettle black.
Appallingly, in Nitish Kumar’s new JD(U)-RJD Bihar Cabinet 23 of 33 Ministers (75%) have declared criminal cases against them, of whom 17 (53%) have declared serious criminal cases against them, according to Association for Democratic Reform. Lalu’s RJD tops the list with 15 of 17 followed by four of 11 JD(U). Also there is an upswing of 10% of criminal netas compared to previous Assembly
Certainly, one can argue in a milieu where apradhi-banne-netas bahubalis, murderers and gangsters are in great demand as crime appears to have an electoral edge over honesty. However the antics of Bihar’s new Law Minister Kartik Singh who faces arrest in a kidnapping case marks a new low in power politics.
Shockingly, he preferred to take oath than surrender in court Tuesday last. Additionally, Singh faces four other criminal cases of kidnapping, extortion and theft according to his poll affidavit. Showcasing democracy is boxed in three stages — mafia box, cartridge box and ballot box. So much for ushering in safedi ki chamkaan wali politics!
In Maharashtra’s Eknath Shinde’s Shiv-Sena-BJP 18-member Cabinet 15 (75%) Ministers have serious criminal cases against them, 7 from Shinde’s SS and 8 BJP. But Food Mantri Sanjay Rathod tale has a different twist. The BJP brayed for his blood when he was Forest Minister in Thackeray’s erstwhile Government for a woman’s suicide. Today all is forgotten in the new bonhomie of chor chor mausere bhai.
Despaired, forget it, there’s worse. Of 539 Right Honourables 233 (43%) have criminal cases, 29% of which are serious: 10 MPs have convicted cases, 11 cases related to murder, 30 attempt to murder and 19 crimes against women. BJP tops the ignominy list with 116 (39%) of 301 MPs, Congress 29 (57%) of 53, JD(U) 13 (81%), DMK 10 (43%) and TMC 9 (41%).
Worse, a whopping 2,556 MPs and MLAs from 22 States are accused in criminal cases. One Congress MP has 204 cases including culpable homicide, house trespass, robbery and criminal intimidation. A 100% increase from 24% in 2004, 30% in 2009 and 34% in 2014.
Ulta Pulta UP boasts of dons Raju Bhaiya who has been MLA since 1993 despite murder and kidnapping cases, Mukhtar Ansari has won 5 elections but still calls the shots, 32 cases ranging from culpable homicide, dacoity and murder have not ended Samajwadi’s Yogesh Verma’s two decade-long political career.
Crime and politics are so intertwined that a “clean politician” sounds like an oxymoron, a breed that no longer exists. At grassroots levels, Parties depend on strongmen to corral support, often along caste-religious lines and funds campaigns. Over time, bahubalis become more powerful and popular enjoying a reputation of ‘getting stuff done’ thanks to a dysfunctional State and judicial services. Parties are not interested in long-term fixes, only ad hoc favours and someone who is feared.
Politico-criminals are paraded as prized bulls and portrayed as safedi ki chamkan compared to their chor brethren who are unfit to rule, leave alone provide good and honest governance. Consequently, the State has become a battleground of mafia dons, their senas, armed brigades and ideologically indoctrinated lumpens wherein our jan sevaks dance to their underworld benefactors tune at the cost of janata, democratic ethos and good governance. So what if they are the biggest threat to society and nation.
Voters support criminals who wear their disrepute as a badge of honor as social divisions driven by caste, religion, social and gender inequities are sharp as Government fails to dispense justice, provide security and deliver services along-with prolonged trials in court and lower conviction rates. Scandalously, only 6% cases against MPs-MLAs ended in conviction, in 18 of 29 States and 2 of 7 UTs’ there were no convictions for murder, kidnapping and criminal intimidation.
Observed Supreme Court July last, “There is unity in diversity. We have been telling legislature to act against candidates against whom charges have been framed but nothing has been done. Nothing is done and nothing will ever be done by any Party to prevent criminals from entering politics and standing for elections.”
It is this mutual benefit and camaraderie between criminal-Party nexus which is cause célèbre for our netagan resisting passing any legislation that would rid politics of the cancer of three C’s — criminalization, corruption and crisis of credibility. See, how our leaders divide along Party lines on most issues but play deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to taking steps to address this problem.
Coupled with spiraling poll costs alongside an opaque election financing system characterized by Parties and candidates under-reporting collections and expenses results in Parties preferring cash-lush candidates, many who are on Law’s wrong side. Plainly, it all comes down to money as all are ek he thaali ke chate bate!
Most distressing is that it doesn’t strike any chord anywhere. With every passing election, the phenomenon of criminals-turned-politicos no longer shocks or causes mass protests. It is slowly becoming an accepted norm, part of one’s routine.
Questionably, does the electorate want honest politicians and a clean Government? Doesn’t seem so. According to a recent report 45.5% ‘criminal’ candidates win against 24.7% with a clean background. Unreachable by law, they are the law and all-powerful.
It is imperative Parliament evolve a mechanism to decriminalize politics at every level of Government. Unless Parliament amends Article 102 of the Constitution and provisions of the Representation of People’s Act to disqualify unworthy candidates, nothing will change as currently, even candidates jailed for less than two years can contest elections. Alongside, Parties need to revoke membership of tainted candidates, educate voters, increase democratic participation by creating the right conditions for de-criminalisation of politics.
We need to answer three questions. How many murder charges are required before one is considered unfit to represent the people of India? How long will our criminal-politicos slug it out for “bullet-proof jackets” — MP-MLA’s tag? Are there no honest and capable netas? Else be prepared today’s criminal king-makers may be tomorrow’s kings!