Post-Elections In Harayana And Gujarat: The Criminalization Of Politics
The recently concluded elections in Haryana and Gujarat showed an ever growing trend of people having criminal records and contesting for positions of power. It was found that 14% of the candidates in fray in Gujarat had criminal records. In Himachal Pradesh around 50 candidates had criminal records. What is appalling is that the ease with which these people get nominations by political parties. Let us analyze the situation and see why it happens, what has been done and what more needs to be done to prevent the criminalization of politics.
Why Does It Happen
The first and foremost question that arises in the mind of the common man is why do political parties extend their patronage to criminals? Criminals seek support from politicians to continue their illegal activities, while parties provide political patronage to expand their monetary sources as well as utilize the muscle power of goons deemed necessary to win elections. In due course of time, the criminals themselves acquire such influence that they don’t feel the necessity to hide behind their political masters and contest elections themselves. The consequence is that today in Parliament 34% of the parliamentarians have criminal records.
Efforts Taken By The Judiciary
In 2013 the Supreme Court passed a ruling declaring that MLAs and MPs who were chargesheeted on conviction of offences would be disqualified with immediate effect. The old practise of giving three months time to appeal against the judgement was done away with.
Under the Representation of People’s Act, it has imposed a ban of 6 years on such candidates from contesting elections. It has also issued directives to expedite speedy trials of on such cases.
The Election Commission has asked for a lifetime ban from contesting elections on people with a criminal background. It has also argued that candidates should be disqualified on grounds of false affidavits. It has also taken several steps to provide full information regarding a candidate to the people of the constituency be it for assembly of the parliament.
It gave the people the right to exercise their vote as well as reject the candidature by brining the “NOTA” option.
The Ground Reality
Despite several measures taken by the apex court as well as the election commission, a lot more is required to start the process of decriminalization of politics. The major problem is that most of these politicians, even after being barred from contesting elections, have a lot of influence and install their next of kin and continue to wield their clout. The entire process goes on and on.
The Supreme Court recently said that there were limits to its power and it cannot stop anyone convicted of a crime to campaign in elections or even to head a political party.
The Road Ahead
The judiciary as well the election commission will continue to churn out laws and reforms, but what if the real stakeholders i.e. the Indian citizens take a bit of more responsibility? The time has come for them to take a more proactive role rather than be dependent on the judiciary and the election commission. This can mean conducting a background check on the candidates (be it for municipal, assembly or parliament elections). The people should then make others aware about the information they have collected so incase the candidate has criminal record he is not elected.
Furthermore, in the future they should ensure that the political parties should not endorse such candidates by declaring their support against such candidates.
By taking these measures, the citizens can pave the way for decriminalization of politics and ensure that criminals don’t hold positions of power.