Criminalisation of Politics

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Criminalisation of politics has become an issue of grave concern among the Indian intelligentsia. And though the top leaders of all political parties agree that those with criminal record should be debarred from contesting elections, the number of such people is only increasing. In 2004, about one in five MPs had a criminal record, including some with charges of heinous crimes such as murder, rape, dacoity and kidnapping.

Why does it happen?

The most important factor, which determines the ticket distribution, is the "winability" of the candidate. Hence more and more people with money and muscle power are getting tickets from the political parties. Another factor that has played an important role is that the criminal elements think that they can escape punishment by becoming a member of legislative bodies in the states or at the centre.

The negative implications

As goes the old adage – "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch". A person with criminal background entering politics will demand his pound of flesh from the party in power to which he has extended support. Apart from seeking protection from the criminal cases going against him, he will also want a share from the developmental schemes going on in his areas. Thus the government funds meant for the poor go into the pockets of these people.

Is there a way out?

In a conference organised by the Public Interest Foundation (PIF) on February 19, 2009, several eminent people expressed their views on how to tackle the problem. Fali S Nariman, India's leading constitutional expert, emphasised on having a proper definition of people who can be called a criminal which could be those who are charged with offences that involve a punishment of more than two years. Dr Bimal Jalan, one of India's renowned economist and former Governor of Reserve Bank of India, who is the Chairman of the Public Interest Foundation gave a novel idea to tackle the problem. He said that since it is...
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