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The NGOs’ report has tagged seats where 3 or more candidates have a criminal record as Red Alert constituencies; in Mumbai district, Kalina, Anushakti Nagar and Bandra (East) more than meet the criterion

If you’re looking to make your vote count on October 15 and ensure that a suspected criminal does not end up becoming the MLA from your area, you have an uphill task ahead of you.

Illustration/Amit Bandre
Illustration/Amit Bandre

While a nexus between criminals and politicians does not come as news for anyone in India, the gap between the two seems to have decreased to the point that they have taken on a unified, amorphous identity. An extensive study of the candidates seeking your vote in the upcoming Assembly polls has revealed that 34% – or one in three – of those analysed have a criminal record.

Three NGOs working to ensure greater political participation and better governance – Association for Democratic Reforms, Action for Good Governance and Networking in India, and Mumbai Votes – came together to conduct the study. And, in the four days since the final list of candidates was made available on October 5, the organisations managed to analyse 2,336 of the 4,119 candidates.

The NGOs found that 798 of the 2,336 candidates have declared criminal cases in their affidavits, 537 of whom have serious charges like murder, kidnapping, promoting communal disharmony and crimes against women against them. Out of the 2,336 candidates, 1,318 have been fielded by the five major parties – Shiv Sena, BJP, Congress, NCP and MNS. Of these, 640 candidates have criminal cases against them – 425 of them for serious crimes.

Sena leads
With 61% 169 of 278 analysed of its candidates having criminal records, Shiv Sena has the unenviable distinction of fielding the most number of candidates with a criminal past. The other party led by a member of the Thackeray clan, the MNS, holds the second place in the list with 54% – 118 of 218 analysed -of its candidates having a criminal record.

The Sena’s former ally, the BJP, came in third with 53% – 138 of 258 analysed. Former allies NCP and Congress took the fourth and fifth spots respectively, at 43 and 33%. 119 NCP candidates of the 277 analysed and 96 from the Congress of the 287 analysed have a criminal past.

In the serious offences category, the MNS topped the chart with 91 of its 218 analysed candidates (42%) being accused of serious crimes, followed closely by the Shiv Sena with 114 out of 278 candidates (41%).

The NGOs noted that the split in the two major alliances – Congress-NCP and Sena-BJP – contributed to more candidates with a criminal record being fielded as the parties struggled to find ‘clean’ candidates for all the seats.

Red alert
The NGOs also came up with the concept of Red Alert constituencies in the report and for an area to qualify, three or more candidates from there should have a criminal past. In bad news for Mumbai, three constituencies – Kalina, Anushakti Nagar and Bandra (East) – are Red Alert constituencies with 7 candidates in each having criminal records.

According to the report, 14 candidates in the state have declared themselves illiterate and two posh constituencies in Mumbai, Colaba and Malabar Hill, have a high percentage of candidates who have not studied even till Std X. These grim facts notwithstanding, the state seems to have done well on the education front overall, with 1,276 out of the 2,336 candidates stating that they were twelfth pass, 985 of whom have completed their graduation and beyond.

Richest Candidates
While candidates without a criminal past may be relatively harder to come by, you are set to be spoilt for choice if you are looking to elect a rich MLA. Of the 2,336 candidates, 1,095 – or 47% – are crorepatis. The figure gets even better when the sample size is narrowed down to the five major parties, with 958 of 1,318 candidates – or nearly 73% – having assets worth more than a crore.

Unsurprisingly, four out of the eight richest candidates – having declared assets worth more than Rs 100 crore – are from the city. With assets worth more than Rs 300 crore, Mohit Kamboj, the BJP candidate from Dindoshi is the richest candidate. Kamboj’s fellow party man, Mangal Prabhat Lodha from Malabar Hill, NCP’s Prasad Lad from Sion-Koliwada and Samajwadi Party’s Abu Azmi from Mankhurd-Shivaji Nagar make up the rest of the list from Mumbai.

Fund utilisation
According to the report, the MLAs seem to have spent more of their funds on building toilets than on ensuring drainage, which is a must for toilets to function. The NGOs found that while many parties claimed to have developed gardens in various areas, hardly any utilised MLA funds to do so. A very small portion of the MLA funds was used for education either.

Activist speak
Deepak Negi, Senior Program Associate from ADR, said, “There was very little time for us to actually come out with the report as the final list of candidates was declared only on October 5. There were more than 20,000 documents that we had to go through. The citizens will now have a clearer picture and we hope this report helps them choose wisely.”

D M Sukhtankar, Chairman, Action for Good Governance and Networking in India, said, “The main aim was to give citizens information about the candidates and help them make and informed choice. There were promises made by parties on avoiding candidates with criminal backgrounds but the report indicates that they seem to have forgotten those promises.”

Vivek Gilani, Founding Trustee of mumbaivotes.com, said, “We have been working for the assembly elections for about two months. There were 30-odd volunteers working for us and we did all this to ensure that we could have quality voting and not just an increase in voter turnout.”

Parties speak

>> Sanjay Upadhyay, Mumbai vice-president for BJP, said, “We have been an opposition party in the state for almost 15 years and we have to hold protests against the ruling party, which is our right. Most cases against our candidates are related to the protests.” When he was asked about the serious offences, Upadhyay said, “I don’t agree with the report then, and I am sure there was confusion on the same. Our party has given the most qualified candidates to the state.”

>> Shweta Parulekar, spokesperson for the Shiv Sena, said, “I have not seen the report myself and I am sure whatever cases exist are for political reasons like Morchas.” Parulekar hung up when she was asked about the serious crimes.

>> Anand Gadgil, spokesperson for Congress, said, “Allegations of serious offences like murder and dacoity can be debated, but criminal records per se cannot be the reason to turn down candidates as most of them are a result of political activities like protests.” On serious offences, he said, “Even if there are as many as they claim, have the charges been proved at least in lower courts?” On spending of MLA funds, Gadgil said, “Providing toilets is BMC’s duty and the ruling parties there – the Sena and BJP – have failed, because of which we had to do this work and could not focus on the larger issues.”

>> Uday Pratapsingh, spokesperson for NCP, said, “When we talk about criminal cases, most of the cases are filed during political movements and these organisations should differentiate between political cases and criminal cases.”

>> MNS spokesperson Nitin Sardesai could not be reached despite repeated attempts.

– See more at: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/at-61-pc-shiv-sena-leads-list-of-candidates-with-a-criminal-past/15673155#sthash.TYHUMLTX.cnkLC5ib.dpuf