At least 18% of the candidates contesting the Assembly elections in five states have criminal cases against them, a study by the Association for Democratic Reforms and the National Election Watch showed.
The Assembly polls in Mizoram took place on November 7, in Madhya Pradesh on November 17 and in Rajasthan on November 25. The elections in Chhattisgarh were held in two phases on November 7 and 17. Telangana will vote on November 30. The votes in all five states will be counted on December 3.
The election watchdogs analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 8,051 candidates of the 8,054 candidates who are contesting polls in the five states.
Of these, 959 candidates, or around 12%, have declared serious criminal cases against themselves.
Serious criminal cases are those having a maximum punishment of five years or more. It also includes offences that are non-bailable, an electoral offence, related to loss to the exchequer, assault, murder, kidnap, rape and crimes against women.
While 22 candidates have declared cases related to murder, 107 candidates have declared cases related to crimes against women. Of these 107 candidates, five have declared cases related to rape, the study found.
Telangana has the highest number of candidates with criminal records including 45 cases related to crimes against women, 27 with cases of attempt to murder and seven murder cases.
This is followed by Rajasthan with 36 candidates having cases related to crimes against women, 34 with cases of attempt to murder and four murder cases.
In Madhya Pradesh, 24 candidates have cases related to crimes against women, 17 with cases of attempt to murder and 10 murder cases.
In Chhattisgarh, four candidates are booked for attempt to murder, two for crimes against women and one in a murder case.
Among the five states, Mizoram has the lowest number of candidates with criminal records. Between 3% and 10% of candidates from major parties have criminal cases against them. None of the candidates in the North East state have declared cases related to crimes against women, attempt to murder and murder.
In their report, the election watchdogs said that the political parties have failed to follow the directions of the Supreme Court passed in 2020 instructing them to give reasons for selection of such candidates and why other persons without criminal history could not be fielded in the polls instead.
The reasons for such selections, the Supreme Court’s guidelines say, have to be with reference to qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate and not solely based on the winnability factor.
During the Assembly elections in four states – Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and Karnataka – earlier this year, political parties gave “unfounded and baseless” reasons including popularity of the person, their social work, and even alleging that cases against their candidates are politically motivated, the report said.
“These are not sound and cogent reasons for fielding candidates with tainted backgrounds,” the report said. “This data clearly shows that political parties have no interest in reforming the electoral system and our democracy will continue to suffer at the hands of lawbreakers who become lawmakers.”
The current trends showed that the directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on the political parties in selection of candidates in the five states, it said. “All major parties contesting in the five states have given tickets to candidates who have declared criminal cases against themselves,” it added.