Muscle + Murder + Money = MP/MLA
By Poonam I Kaushish
Crime does not pay … as well as politics wherein our Parliamentary system has now been hijacked by the criminalisation of politics wherein thousands of our criminal-politicos flaunt their “bullet-proof jackets” — MPs and MLAs tag and aver, “Ab kis ka dam hai ki mujhe encounter me mare.” Welcome a new don (dawn) of criminals banne neta, jo jeeta wohi sikander!
Not any more if the Supreme Court has its way and say. Lamenting the bitter manifest truth whereby criminalisation in politics had become a termite to the citadel of democracy, it directed candidates to divulge their criminal past to the Election Commission in “block letters,” make full disclosures of the criminal cases pending against them to the Parties which in turn, should display the complete details of these candidates on their websites for public consumption to foster and nurture an informed citizenry.
Further, both the candidate and Party should declare the candidate’s criminal antecedents in widely-circulated newspapers and give the criminal record “wide publicity” by airing it on TV channels, not once, but thrice after the filing of nomination papers.
However, for reasons best known to the five-judge Constitution Bench, it refused to disqualify and ban candidates facing trial for heinous crimes from contesting elections but urged Parliament to bring a “strong law” to “cleanse” Parties of leaders facing trial for “heinous and grievous” crimes, such as rape, murder and kidnapping and refuse ticket to offenders in both Parliamentary and Assembly polls. Arguing, rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators.
Certainly, the judgment, in one sense is distinctive as it compels Parties to come clean about the criminal elements within and opens a new landscape of breaking the crime-politics nexus which extends beyond legislators and encompasses Parties. Yet, this is easier said than done as winning at all cost is the new normal of political morality. Brutally underscored by an Election Commissioner: “The winner can commit no sin. Once elected an MP or MLA a criminal is cleansed of all criminality.”
Sadly, the blame for this descent of political discourse into the depth of skullduggery lies squarely with Parties. Quick to crack the whip and complain to the EC about rivals, they shy away from bringing a legislation crying a halt to criminalization of politics. Primarily because the kursi is the most luscious mistress to be loved, raped and conquered at all costs along-with the paisa that goes with it.
Consequently, in a milieu where money and muscle power have become the supreme power, no Party and its netas talk about their plans to propel the country forward. Neither are they worried about selecting the right candidates on the basis of character, integrity, honesty et al. Win-ability not acceptance holds the key alongside a criminal paradigm which decide who deserves to be a legislator.
With power translating into a number game, Parties field mafia dons as they convert their muscle power into votes, often at gun point and emerge victorious. The arrangement works on a quid-pro-quo. Candidates with criminal connections are attractive to Parties as they often have deep pockets of cold, hard cash to fund and fight elections and in turn Parties give criminals protection from the law and respectability in society. Topped, by criminal candidates presenting themselves as Robin Hood-like figures.
Our politico-criminals are paraded as prized bulls and portrayed as safedi ki chamkan compared to their chor brethren who are unfit to rule, leave alone provide good and honest governance. Consequently, the State has become a battleground of mafia dons, their senas, armed brigades and ideologically indoctrinated lumpens. Big deal if they are the biggest threat to society and nation.
Shockingly, of the 541 MPs today 186 (34%) face serious criminal charges including murder (9), attempted murder (17), kidnapping and crimes against women. Worse, the number has steadily risen since 2004. Out of 543 Lok Sabha MPs in 2009-14 162 (30%) had cases pending, up from 128 (24%) in 2004-09. Further, more than 30%, 1460 of 4807 sitting MPs and MLAs have declared criminal cases, 688 of whom with “serious” charges.
Appalling is the situation in States. Shockingly, Jharkhand has the highest percentage 74% of MLAs with cases pending (55 out of 74 MLAs), Bihar 58% and UP with 47%. More scandalous, Parties present an ugly picture. The JMM accounts for 82 %, RJD 64% SP 48%, BJP 31% and Congress 21% of criminal MPs and MLAs’.
From criminalisation of politics to the politicisation of crime, India has come a full circle. Yesterday’s mafia dons are today our Right Honourables. Unreachable by the long arms of law, they are the law and all-powerful. Bringing things to such a pass that our elected jan sevaks now dance to the tune of their underworld benefactors at the cost of the janata, democratic ethos and good governance.
Think. Mafia dons have been elected from prisons, some MPs continue to hold durbars in jail, with all home comforts, instruct chamchas via cellphone and rule their empire, issuing diktats that few dare disobey. Not a few take the anticipatory bail route to avoid arrest, others simply abscond only to “surrender” when ready. It defies logic that instead of being shunned Lalu’s RJD came up trumps in the Bihar elections despite him being in jail.
One could dismiss this politicization of crime as an evolving phase of our democratic process. But the tragedy is that the only thing that matters is on whose side the criminal is. His or ours? They are all the same. Only the degrees differ. A vicious circle of you scratch my back, I scratch yours!
Akin to the famous story. An angry man tells an American official that the man the US was championing abroad was “a son of a bitch”! Pat came the response, “Yes; but he’s our son of a bitch”!
It is this mutual benefit and camaraderie between the criminal-Party nexus which is the cause célèbre for our netagan resisting passing any legislation that would rid politics of the cancer of the three C’s — criminalization, corruption and crisis of credibility. See, how our MPs and MLAs divide along Party lines on most issues but close ranks when it comes to taking steps to addressing this problem.
What next? Where do we go from here? No longer can we merely shrug our shoulders and dismiss it as political kalyug. India is today at the moral crossroads. Specially against the backdrop of our politicians having perfected the art of cultivating low morality and high greed.
The Supreme Court has exposed India’s political nadir. How many murder charges are required before one is considered unfit to represent the people of India? Are there no honest and capable netas? Can a nation be bare and bereft of all sense of shame and morality? And, for how long?
Time our polity re-thinks their priorities, bite the bullet and pass a legislation that bars criminals and mafia dons from entering the political arena. Can our netas rise to the occasion and protect the culture and purity in politics? Remember, the country can no longer allow small men to continue to cast big shadows as nothing costs a nation more than criminal politician! —- INFA