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Criminalisation of politics, a sad reality faced by civic voters
Rohit Chandavarkar | Friday, 17 February 2017 AT 11:15 AM IST
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The number of candidates in the upcoming municipal polls, who have serious criminal cases pending against them, is alarmingly high and the shocking part of this trend is that the BJP, which called itself the party with a difference, now appears at the number three position after Shiv Sena and NCP in the list of parties that have highest number of contestants with criminal records.

In Pune, itself 17 per cent candidates have criminal records and 12 per cent out of these face serious criminal cases!

Every time a leader of any political party is asked why his or her party is giving tickets (candidature) to a person with a criminal background, the answer is so typically the same that one can now create a template for this question and answer.

The typical answer is: “Most of the cases filed against the concerned candidate are of political nature. The cases are over agitations and other political activities. In any case, everybody is innocent until proven guilty in court, so the allegations that we are giving tickets to people with criminal background is baseless”. .. This reply to the questions raised over criminalisation has become so typical and regular that it is utterly predictable and boring.

But what people need to know is that this reply by political leaders is not only boring but it’s also totally false. It’s quite untrue that the cases are only of political nature. In cases of most candidates who are under question, the cases are also of murder or causing serious injury to some person or of rioting, etc. It is unfortunate that most of the media members too have not gone into the details of each candidate’s profile and what kind of cases they face.

The sad part is that at the very grassroots level where candidates and their parties are supposed to get lessons in democratic processes, the entry of goons and criminals is becoming a common feature in most cities in a sophisticated and industrialised state like Maharashtra.

A party like BJP, which till recently spoke in loud voice about values and against criminalisation of politics, is now seen sidelining its loyal cadre, who have worked for the party for 15 to 20 years and instead is giving tickets to people with criminal backgrounds and the sole reason is that they have to fight against an aggressive rival such as the Shiv Sena.

The political parties alone cannot be blamed for this unfortunate circumstances. It is obvious now that this situation has risen because majority of the voting in civic as well as assembly polls happens mainly in slum areas and the urban middle or higher middle class stays away from the poll process, parties prefer to depend on slum voters in cities where the influential element is the local goon.

So if voting is to be tilted in your favour, you have to take that local goon along with you. If the urban middle and higher-middle class start taking interest in the political process and comes out to vote for the honest candidates perhaps political parties will immediately see the changing trend and stop giving candidature to people with criminal records.

Such criminalisation of politics at civic election level is a very worrisome trend and it must be controlled with all stakeholders coming together otherwise, it will spread like a deadly disease and challenge the very concept of democracy at some stage in the future.

It is obvious now that this situation has risen because majority of the voting in civic as well as assembly polls happens mainly in slum areas and the urban middle or higher middle class stays away from the poll process, parties prefer to depend on slum voters in cities where the influential element is the local goon. So if voting is to be tilted in your favour, you have to take that local goon along with you.

- ROHIT CHANDAVARKAR
 
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