We recently shot a documentary on ‘The Reality of the Indian Elections 2019’ and it was hard not to notice how politics has become more like a melodramatic episode of an Indian soap opera. We interviewed people across social and economic classes in Gurgaon, Delhi NCR, to get an insight into the mind of the voters. It was shocking to learn that only 2% of the people we interacted with had ever looked inside any party manifesto. Not unlike previous years, there was a sense of political illiteracy as people voted on factors such as religion, caste, and opinions of family and friends. The media gave the citizens of the country a true look into the politicians who would represent the country. Over the months leading up to the elections, criminal cases against politicians, ranging from corruption charges to rape charges, were brought to the attention of the public.
In 2019, the Association of Democratic Reform analysed that 918 candidates had declared criminal cases in their affidavits. There were 34 cases for an attempt to murder,12 for murder, 7 for kidnapping/abduction, 20 for crimes against women (including rape), and 10 for hate speech. People in power, from state ministers to cabinet ministers, have made such politically and factually incorrect statements that it makes us question whether the future of the nation is in safe and honest hands.
The BJP has lived up to its reputation as a party of the majority and for the majority. On May 23, the long elections of the world’s largest democracy delivered a stupendous victory for the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A second term for a party which is pursuing a Hindu majoritarian agenda defying India’s secular constitutional order is bound to have repercussions on India’s socio-cultural fabric and institutional framework.
The BJP and its supporters are undoubtedly propagating nationalism designed to consolidate a fragmented Hindu identity by demonising minorities. Since the criminal justice system is broken and the rule of law is far from firm, perpetrators of crimes of various scale have not only enjoyed impunity but have also been able to infiltrate the political system. In January 2018, four senior-most judges of the Indian Supreme Court publicly warned citizens that the country’s democracy was under threat because of “the way the top court is being run”.
News of lynching in the name of “cow protection” has become a daily trend. They have created a cultural revolution of their own by Hinduising the bureaucracy and media and crushed the seeds of progressive movements in universities, cultural institutions and on the streets. Journalist Prashant Kanojia was recently arrested for speaking out against Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath. It is a shame that the world’s largest democracy is so fragile, that it has to suppress the opinion of its youth and go to the extent of dictating to its premier educational institutions on how those within them should think and what they should think.
In April 2014, while opposing the death penalty to three men convicted in a gangrape case, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav had said, “boys will be boys, they commit mistakes.”
In 2014, SP’s state president Abu Azmi attracted criticism for his statements about rape survivors. He said, “If a woman is caught (in a rape case), then both she and the boy should be punished. In India, there is a death penalty for rape, but when there’s consensual sex outside marriage, there’s no death penalty against women.
In 2009, Former Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the best way to curb India’s population growth is to provide electricity to Indian villages so that couples spend their time watching TV instead procreating and increasing the population.
INC leader Rahul Gandhi recently made a remark in his speech that caught the nation’s attention “Poverty is just a state of mind. It does not mean the scarcity of food, money or material things. If one possesses self-confidence, then one can overcome poverty.”
Sakshi Maharaj a member of BJP said: “The concept of four wives and forty children just won’t work in India but it is high time that every Hindu woman must produce at least four children to protect the Hindu religion.”
A Chief Minister of a prominent state said that “If one Hindu girl is converted, we will convert 100 Muslims girls…The way Hindu girls are insulted, I don’t think a civilised society would accept it…If the government is not doing anything, then the Hindus will have to take matters into their own hands.”(In an undated video, reportedly from a speech in Azamgarh).
These statements are broadly publicised by the media and as a result, it makes us question the competence and educational qualifications of such leaders. Not only are they responsible for shaping the future of the country but also have a huge impact on the youth of the country. This is why the education of politician plays such an integral role in the growth of the country.
India’s Supreme Court has refused to ban crime-tainted politicians from contesting elections, saying it has no power to do so but decriminalisation of politics is something that has become extremely necessary in India. With many politicians having criminal charges against them it makes us question where the future of our country is headed towards.
43 percent of the newly-elected members to the lower house of Parliament face criminal charges, up from 34 percent in 2014. Here are a few criminal charges against Indian politicians:
Nitesh Kumar, mostly consistent Chief Minister of Bihar has faced charges of attempt to murder, rioting armed with a deadly weapon and unlawful assembly. The 1991 murder case against him was finally dropped, but one must consider just how adept Kumar is at weaselling out of sticky situations.
Uma Bharti has been accused of rioting, attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, criminal force to deter public servant, and statements conducing public mischief.
Lalu Prasad Yadav-After reports of alleged embezzlement of money withdrawn from animal husbandry department were tabled from 1990-95 Lalu Prasad Yadav ordered a probe. It was later found that the minister himself was involved in the siphoning of 450 crores from the animal husbandry department.
We must realise the importance of our vote and ensure that we safeguard our democracy by choosing capable leaders who do not infringe on the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion for personal gains or beliefs. It is time for India to rise to the top and certain people in the country are doing nothing but pull it back to the dark times the country has seen. The youth of the nation should not shirk off their political responsibilities. Instead, they must be encouraged to take up a career in politics and convert it from a game of power and wealth to a game of honesty and integrity. Governing a country like India requires both skill and patience, and the system to enter politics must become stricter to keep a check on the quality of our leaders. Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha quit the party and alleged that there was a “threat” to democracy under the present dispensation.