Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Monday, December 29, 2008

Only Votes can Clean Politics of Criminals

By Joginder Singh

An executive engineer of the Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department (PWD) was beaten to death in Auraiya, Uttar Pradesh, on December 25, allegedly by a history-sheeter MLA of the Bahujan Samaj Party, his supporters, and allegedly, two PWD engineers. The engineer was reportedly killed because he refused to cough up Rs 50 lakhs for the birthday celebrations of chief minister Mayawati on January 15, 2009. The state government and Ms Mayawati have denied this allegation.

The accused Shekhar Tiwari, since arrested, has several cases pending against him. In 2001, he was also booked under the Gangster Act and remained behind bars for several months. In June 2008, two state ministers, one from Uttar Pradesh and the other from Assam, were removed from their offices and arrested. The Uttar Pradesh fisheries minister Jamuna Nishad was arrested for allegedly killing a police constable while leading a mob protesting police protection for an accused in the rape of a girl belonging the Nishad community. The education minister of Assam, Ripun Bora, was arrested and later sacked for trying to bribe CBI officials with Rs 10 lakhs so that they would go soft on him in the murder investigation against him.

According to the Election Commission, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar account for at least 40 MPs and 700 MLAs who have faced criminal charges that include murder, dacoity, rape, theft and extortion. Some leading lights include Pappu Yadav (convicted of murdering a Left party legislator) and Syed Shahabuddin. Both are in jail. Union law minister told the Rajya Sabha the in 2008 that there were over 1,300 cases pending against sitting MPs and MLAs in various courts. The CBI was investigating 65 of these. There is a regional concentration in terms of criminal cases. Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh comprise 28 per cent of all MPs but account for over 50 per cent of MPs with high-penalty criminal cases. The party-wise position of MPs is that the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leads in the proportion of criminal cases (43.5 per cent).

In respect of criminal cases with severe penalties (five or more years’ imprisonment), RJD tops the list with 34.8 per cent of MPs, BSP with 27.8 per cent and the Samajwadi Party with 19.4 per cent. Congress MPs in this category account for 7.6 per cent of their total number in Parliament. For BJP it is 10.9 per cent.

A former chief minister, when asked about the 22 ministers in his Cabinet with criminal antecedents, said, “I don’t bother about the ministers’ past. After joining the government they are not indulging in crimes and want to help suppress criminal activities. Ask the people why they have elected them”.

On July 9, 1993 the Government of India constituted a committee, under the chairmanship of home secretary, with secretary, Raw, Director, Intelligence Bureau, Director, CBI, Special Secretary (Home) as members, to take stock of all available information about the activities of criminal syndicates and mafia organisations which had developed links with and were being protected by government functionaries and political personalities.

Director CBI told the committee that all over India crime syndicates have become a law unto themselves. In smaller towns and rural areas, musclemen have become the order of the day and hired assassins are a part of these organisations. The nexus between criminal gangs, police, bureaucracy and politicians has come out clearly in various parts of the country.

The existing criminal justice system, essentially designed to deal with individual offences/crimes, is unable to deal with the activities of the mafia. The provisions of law with regard to economic offences are weak and there are insurmountable legal difficulties in attaching or confiscating property acquired through mafia activities.

When pressed further to know what action had been taken to end criminalisation, the then Union home minister S.B. Chavan had said that he had forwarded the committee’s reports to the state governments for necessary action. That was the end of efforts to prevent criminalisation of politics and society.

Political power has flowed from the barrel of the gun in states where in criminals have adorned elective offices of not one but all political parties.

No politician or a political party is in the business of politics for dharma-karam and politicians are quick to seize all opportunities for electoral gains. The caste card is unabashedly played to drum up support. Whenever a question is put about how they intend to eliminate criminalisation of politics, the standard response is that political parties must arrive at a consensus. Politicians will have consensus only when it suits their interests and it will never suit them to have a person with a clean record whose electoral victory might be doubtful.

After all what matters in politics are numbers, whether they are procured by hook or crook, temptations of pelf or power. Middle class people talk about criminalisation and they are the ones who do not go out to cast their votes on the ground that either it is too cold or too hot or they have another engagement or they do not want to stand in a queue. As countrymen we get a chance once in five years to elect our rulers. Instead of lamenting about the sorry state of affairs, why don’t we go out and discharge our duties as citizens and elect the best possible candidate? This is the only way to end criminalisation in politics. Especially since our governments aren’t just unable to end criminalisation, they are simply unwilling to do so.

It is worthwhile to quote what former US President Ronald Reagan said: “Politicians may think prostitution is a grim, degrading life. But prostitutes think the same of politics. Getting a lecture on morality from a politician is like getting a lecture on chastity from a whore”.
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