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The ugly face of politics remains

The ugly face of politics remains

Author: Rudroneel Ghosh
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 19, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/177180/The-ugly-face-of-politics-remains.html

As the dust settles down on what could be best described as an election that had more than a few surprises, there is one little detail that everyone will consider heartening no matter on which side you are of the political divide. All criminal candidates who contested the just-concluded Lok Sabha election in Bihar have lost. Even dubious characters like Prabhunath Singh and Munna Shukla who contested the polls on JD(U) tickets were given a big thumbs down by the electorate. It is being suggested that this trend in Bihar was a logical consequence of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's drive against criminalisation. Be that as it may, the fact that these mafia dons were given tickets to contest the polls in the first place, that too by a party such as the JD(U), once again highlights the problem of criminalisation of politics. Incidentally, the number of criminal MPs in the new Lok Sabha has increased from 128 in the previous Parliament to 150 now.

There are essentially two aspects to the problem. First, there is the legal angle. Many criminals who contest elections are free to do so because the law states that unless and until one is convicted of a crime there is no reason to take away that person's right to be able to stand for public office. In fact, even if a person is under trial and is in judicial custody, he or she can still contest elections. So technically you could have a 100 different cases against you - no convictions of course - and still be an MP.

Second, political parties have come to accept that 'muscle power' is a must for party organisation at the grass-root level. They believe that criminals have the 'contacts' and the 'resources' to 'smoothly' carry out party work which otherwise would have been too 'labourious' or 'cost ineffective'. This is the principal reason why criminals in our country enjoy political patronage. It is a time-tested symbiotic relationship that has served well politicians and criminals alike. And that's why sometimes it becomes hard to tell the difference between the two.

The people of Bihar in this election have showed the way by consciously not voting for candidates with criminal background. But in an increasingly criminalised political arena sometimes the electorate simply doesn't have a choice. Thus, unless the political parties themselves reject these hoodlums, little will change. Or we could consider strengthening the no-vote option by making it mandatory to have re-polling in those constituencies with 50 per cent no-vote.

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