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Urban Naxal to Amit Shah, AAP Bharuch candidate tops ADR's Gujarat criminal cases list

By Rajiv Shah 

Refusing to go beyond the data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on the Lok Sabha candidates’ own declarations of their criminal record, educational qualification and assets, the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), a top-notch advocacy group, has declared Aam Aadmi Party candidate Chaitar Vasava, 35, having the highest number of criminal cases of all those fighting the electoral battle on 26 seats in Gujarat.
Recently dubbed “urban Naxal” and “anti-tribal” by Union home minister Amit Shah, Chaitar, a tribal himself, fights the election from the Bharuch constituency with Congress support as part of the INDIA bloc. ADR’s list – based on ECI data – shows, he tops the list of 36 candidates who have criminal cases pending against them. Considered a promising candidate, popular among the tribals, Chaitar is pitted against BJP's Mansukh Vasava, a six-term Lok Sabha MP.
Reported to have been pressured to join BJP, which he is said to have refused, and jailed for a month in a rioting case in December 2023, the Gujarat High Court granted interim relief to Chaitar by suspending the bail condition that restrained him from entering the Narmada district, part of which fall under the Bharuch constituency, till June 12, the next date of hearing in the case. It allowed him to submit his candidature. The sessions court had imposed the bail condition in January this year.
Known to have fought several Supreme Court cases for bringing about electoral reforms – the latest one being on the electoral bonds scheme which brought the elite non-profit into limelight – the ADR list, based on the affidavit Chaitar filed, shows that as many as 12 criminal cases are pending against him, including those related with robbery, sexual harassment, extortion, causing grievous hurt, abetment of offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, and so on.
Answering a question on whether ADR attempts to look into political reasons why such criminal cases are being imposed by the powers-that-be on candidates like Chaitar, especially in the light to recent arrests by security agencies of top politicians, including Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, the NGO representative in Gujarat, Pankti Jog, said, “We only analyse the affidavits filed by individual candidates in order to analyse their criminal record. We don't have resources to analyse why these cases are being used against politicians.”
With some of the top Indian academics on its board, including Prof Trilochan Sastry, who chairs ADR, who was with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad; Prof Jagdeep S Chhokar, former director, IIM-Ahmedabad; Dr Ajit Ranade, vice chancellor, Gokhale Institute of Politics & Economics, Pune; Dr Kiran B Chhokar, head, Higher Education Programme at the Centre for Environment Education (CEE); Kamini Jaiswal, senior Supreme Court advocate; Jaskirat Singh, founder and CEO, Webrosoft Solutions (P) Ltd; and Dr Vipul Mudgal, director of Common Cause, another top elite NGO, it reportedly has 1,200 NGOs as its members.
Chaitar Vasava, a tribal himself, fights the election from the Bharuch constituency with Congress support as part of the INDIA bloc
Yet, ironically, ADR avoids making a comprehensive analysis of the netas’ antecedents, including their hate speeches, which have lately been in news nationally and internationally, which seek to incite religious discord. It just offers an “open data repository platform” claiming to “empower Indian voters with election-related information” on criminal, financial and educational information of candidates who have contested elections. Hate and involvement in communal rioting as a crime is analysed only if a case a registered against a candidate, not beyond.
Chaitar Vasava No 1 in criminal cases
While it recently won a major legal battle that forced the State Bank of India to release data about how much poll funding was received as electoral bonds and get them published on the Election Commission, it is not known if ADR wants to take the case further to ensure that political parties, especially the ruling BJP, does not use the money they received as electoral bonds following raids or threats of raids by security agencies on industrial houses. Answering a query, Jog, Gujarat ADR in charge, told media, “Ambiguity remains... We haven’t pursued the matter.”
Other legal cases it has fought include making it mandatory for the candidates contesting elections to file self-sworn affidavits on regarding their criminal, financial and educational background; making income tax returns of political parties to be available in public domain; bringing political parties under the Right to Information Act by declaring them as public authorities; barring MPs and MLAs from holding office on being convicted in a court of law; having a separate button on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) with the option of None of the Above (NOTA); and so on.

Comments

I fully agree with your analysis. This is a limitation of liberals, nonethelss it is important to build pressure on the system. Those who use data should know the limitation that you have pointed out.
Excellent on ADR's shortcomings. I have the same view about ADR's mechanical listing of criminal cases

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