By Shashank Bhasker:
The volatile mix of politics and crime has once again come to the fore especially in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh. In order to increase the number of winning seats in the election, political parties embrace the ‘untouchable’ (red tainted) leaders. These candidates have a plethora of cases slapped against them in their kitty. Thieves, rapists, abductors etc. are part of the colorful cast that forms the candidates of all major political parties. Parties go the extent of justifying their decisions by saying these candidates were fielded due to ‘political compulsions’ or in the ‘interest of the voters.’
Opportunism and politics go well together and not ready to lose any opportunities, political parties including Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and BJP’s alliance partner Janata Dal rope in candidates who have lot of clout or have the muscle and money power to garner votes. To cite a few examples Badshah Singh, who has been given BJP ticket is known to have criminal record. Samajwadi Party has fielded mafia-turned politician Abhay Singh from Gosainganj in Faridabad district. SP is also supporting the candidature of royal family scion Raghuraj Pratap Singh, also known as “Raja Bhaiyya”. Former SP minister Amarmani Tripathi, who is serving life term for the murder of poetess Madhumita Shukla, has managed to get tickets for his son. When candidate lists are released by all of the major parties, you can bet your bottom rupee that more than one, probably many, face criminal proceeding.
To be fair, the nexus between politics and crime, or politics and business, and for that matter the unholy trinity of all three, has been universal in the political development of every major country, including the now rich and well-governed countries of the West. It is believed that in closely contested elections the candidates standing up will turn out to be better. But the ground reality is something else. Candidates with criminal backgrounds use unfair means like political violence or intimidation to affect the election outcomes. A crook can always use his/her muscle power to cajole or bully someone into voting in his favor or into not turning up, thereby not casting a ballot for his opponents. Apart from this wealth also plays a key factor. Usually these criminals are fielded so that their ill-gotten wealth can be used to bolster election finances.
Even if the threat of violence is only a part of the story, it’s a depressing reality that India’s competitive and robust democracy has if anything increased the premium on criminality, at least at the margins of the major political parties. Whatever benefits they bring to favored constituents come at a high social cost in terms of decreased consumption by the poor and increased criminality all around.