Sunday, November 01, 2009

Crime: the Swine flu of politics

Ashok Chavan: The Man in command needs to take initiative

Now that the electoral dust has settled down in Maharashtra, its time we carefully studied each of our representatives with a magnifying glass of honesty. Each one of them is our elected representative and therefore in a democratic parlance our mirror-image. The image which emerges is a collective reflection of us, the voters. It may be beautiful, ugly, twisted and in some cases a camouflage to delude ordinary individuals but nobody can deny the fact that we, the voters, are responsible for that image. Narendra Modi has presided over the genocide of innocent Muslims in Gujarat but he remains a democratic symbol and representative and therefore a mirror-image of Gujaratis. This paradox of democracy is like a bitter pill which each one of us has to swallow it.

We must have celebrated the hat-trick of “clean” and “secular” Congress-NCP alliance. Many of us would have been relieved that voters rejected “communal” and “filthy” saffron brigade. But there is one factor which cuts through all party lines – criminal record of elected members of legislative assembly. Not many would have noted this phenomenon. And those who are aware of this societal reality may not care about it. Or perhaps it makes little difference in their lives.

According to the data compiled by National Election Watch, an NGO working for electoral reforms, Maharashtra leads the list of largest number of legislators with criminal cases pending against them followed by Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh. Out of 288, 143 MLAs have a criminal background or some criminal case is pending against them. Almost half of our representatives come from a criminal background or done some nefarious activity which entitled them to enroll themselves in the muster roll reserved for criminals. The magical figure of 145 is required to form government in Maharashtra. What will happen if all the MLAs with criminal cases pending against them come together to cobble up an alliance and manage to get support of two more MLAs? Will Maharashtra government be led by criminal-like-creatures? This assumption should never come true but the number of 143 is a collective blot on our conscience. It’s a blot on the very idea of democracy because there is no law in India which bars persons with criminal cases from contesting elections. This democratic flaw has enabled some criminals win an election right from inside the jail!

Shiv Sena has 33 MLAs with criminal cases pending against them, the highest from a single party. Congress and BJP are on the second position with 26 MLAs each. NCP is ranked third with 24 MLAs. Then there are 36 successful candidates who are either independents or from other regional parties and have criminal cases pending against them, according to National Election Watch data.

India’s democratic framework is such that crime and politics have always been intertwined. Money and muscle power are supposed to be the first steps in climbing up the political ladder. This political trend does not necessarily apply to all because this election has produced the candidates who have won against the might of money and muscle power. But there can be no denying that fact that use of money and muscle power lead to criminal cases.

The 143 tainted MLAs are dirtying Maharashtra’s political pond. Each one of us is responsible for this criminal contamination. Each one of us is guilty for injecting the criminal blood which is polluting the entire Maharashtra. Each one of us owes a responsibility to wipe out this swine flu which is slowly eating us without our realisation.

Perhaps judiciary can play an important role in the operation cleanup. If not, we can’t expect much from our legislators! Legislators of all hues – green, red and saffron – will come together to save themselves! Therefore, a people’s movement seems to be the last and the most practical option.

Is Mr. Ashok Chavan listening?

Sunday Inquilab, November 1, 2009

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