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18% victory chances for criminal-candidates to win Indian polls, just 6% for non-criminals: US-based expert

By Our Representative
A recent book by a top-ranking Indian-American political scientist has calculated, on the basis of India’s data of general elections, that a candidate with serious criminal cases against him has 18 per cent chances of winning a general election in India, while a candidate with no cases has just six per cent chances of winning.
Milan Vaishnav, who senior fellow with the US-based thinktank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s South Asia programme , further says in his book, “When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics” (Harper Collins), “The median ‘clean’ candidate has a personal wealth of just above Rs 9 lakh, compared to roughly Rs 41 lakh for the median candidate with a serious criminal charge.”
Basing his analysis on the general elections in 2004, 2009, and 2014, the book, released even as the Uttar Pradesh was about to go the polls early this year, does not spare Prime Minister Narendra Modi either.
Referring to Modi’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh during the Lok Sabha polls, Vaishnav quotes Modi as saying, "We need to rid Parliament of criminals... I won't let them off the hook if I'm elected to power", and further: "No [criminal] accused will dare to fight polls.”
Suggesting that this was just a rhetoric, Vaishnav says, “Of its record number of MPs (282), 35 per cent faced ongoing criminal cases, and 22 per cent had serious cases pending, according to affidavits candidates themselves submitted to the Election Commission.”
Worse, he says, many of the BJP's suspected MPs found themselves into Modi's first cabinet, including eight with serious cases, with the BJP claiming, “the cases against their party men were politically motivated and lacking any legal basis, a standard first line of defense.”
“One such MP earning a ministerial berth was Sanjeev Baliyan, a man allegedly connected to the tense ethnic situation in the Western Uttar Pradesh town of Muzaffarnagar, which was the sight of grisly riots in 2013”, says Vaishnav.
In an interview with a top news agency about his book, Vaishnav later said, “Eight BJP MPs with serious cases eventually found their way into Modi’s first cabinet. Even Amit Shah, Modi’s long-time number two in Gujarat, was connected to three cases of extortion and conspiracy when the prime minister tapped him to be the BJP party president after coming to power in Delhi.”
On the latest polls in five states, including UP, Vaishnav’s book says, “In February and March 2017, voters in five Indian states are going to the polls. In each instance, the share of wealthy candidates in the fray is even larger than in the previous election.”
Vaishnav adds, “In the north Indian state of Punjab, for instance, 37 percent of contestants are “crorepatis” (that is, they possess a wealth greater than one crore, or 10 million rupees). In the tranquil coastal state of Goa, the assets of sitting politicians have grown by 50 percent in the past five years.”
The UP polls confirm Vaishnav’s analysis: An analysis of 402 MLAs has found that 143 MLAs or 36 per cent have declared criminal cases against themselves. Of these, 114 are from the BJP. Further, 107 MLAs or 26 per cent of the MLAs, have declared serious criminal cases like murder, attempt to murder etc., against them.

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