A new report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Madhya Pradesh Election Watch has revealed that 61 candidates fielded by Congress and 23 candidates fielded by BJP in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections are facing serious criminal cases. The report also found that 19% of all candidates contesting the elections have declared criminal cases against themselves, up from 17% in 2018.
The report analyzed the self-sworn affidavits of all 2,534 candidates contesting the Madhya Pradesh 2023 Assembly Elections. It found that out of the 2,534 candidates, at least 19% are facing criminal charges, up from 17% out of the 2,716 candidates in 2018 polls.
ADR member and ex-DG Arun Gutru told reporters that they aimed at sensitising the Election Commission of India, political parties and voters about various facts related to election contenders.
Congress and BJP Top the List of Candidates with Criminal Cases
The report found that Congress has fielded the highest number of candidates with criminal cases, followed by BJP. Out of 66 candidates fielded by AAP, 26 are facing criminal cases. Similarly, 23 out of 71 SP candidates and 22 out of 181 BSP candidates are facing criminal cases.
"Out of 2,534 candidates analysed, 711 are from national parties, 103 from state parties, 553 from registered unrecognised parties and 1,167 candidates are independent," said the report.
Serious Criminal Cases on the Rise
The report also found that the number of candidates facing serious criminal cases has increased in the 2023 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. The report defines "serious criminal cases" as cases under non-bailable sections of the law where the jail term is at least five years.
The report found that 291 (11%) candidates have declared serious criminal cases against themselves, up from 295 (11%) candidates in the 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly Elections.
Major Parties Fielding Candidates with Serious Criminal Cases
The report also found that major political parties are continuing to field candidates with serious criminal cases, despite the Supreme Court's directions to the contrary.
The report found that 61 (27%) out of 230 candidates analysed from Congress, 23 (10%) out of 230 candidates analysed from BJP, 18 (27%) out of 66 candidates analysed from AAP and 16 (9%) out of 181 candidates analysed from BSP have declared serious criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits.
Red Alert Constituencies
The report also found that 79 (34%) of 230 constituencies are red alert constituencies. Red alert constituencies are those where three or more contesting candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves.
"At least 76 (33%) constituencies in the 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections had three or more candidates with declared criminal cases," the report said.
Supreme Court Directions Have No Effect
The report also found that the directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on the political parties in the selection of candidates in the 2023 Madhya Pradesh Assembly Elections as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to around 19% of candidates with criminal cases.
What Can Be Done?
Several things can be done to reduce the number of candidates with criminal cases contesting elections.
Political parties should have stricter internal mechanisms for screening candidates. This includes conducting background checks and verifying the information provided in candidates' affidavits.
The Election Commission of India should make it easier for voters to access information about candidates' criminal records. This can be done by publishing candidates' criminal records in an easily accessible format on the Election Commission's website.
Voters should also be more discerning when choosing who to vote for. This means researching candidates and their backgrounds before casting a vote.
By taking these steps, we can help to ensure that the people who represent us in government are elected based on their merits, not their criminal records.
The ADR report is a sobering reminder of the challenges facing electoral democracy in India. The report's findings highlight the need for urgent action to reduce the number of candidates with criminal cases contesting elections and to make information about candidates' criminal records more accessible to voters.