The directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on political parties in the selection of candidates in the Rajasthan assembly elections. Almost all parties have followed their old practice of allotting tickets to candidates with criminal cases registered against them.
NEW DELHI — Thirty-six of the 1,875 candidates in the November 25 Rajasthan assembly elections are accused of crimes against women including rape, according to a report jointly prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW). The report also said around 17 per cent of the total candidates have declared criminal cases against them with 13 percent of them being arraigned under serious charges.
This is a marked increase from the previous assembly elections in 2018 when around 15 per cent of candidates had declared criminal cases and 9 per cent were found to be facing ‘serious’ charges, the report said.
The elections in Rajasthan are part of the month-long poll cycle that is expected to set the tone for the impending general elections, likely to be held in April-May 2024. The other states having polls are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram.
The ADR-NRW report comes as the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan is being roasted over the increase in crimes against women, particularly against Dalits and tribals. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is raising the issue as a major poll plank in the state.
Sixty-one candidates fielded by major political parties —national and regional — have criminal cases filed against them, according to the ADR-NEW report.
The report says the Supreme Court directions requiring parties to publicise reasons for fielding accused candidates have not been taken seriously.
“The directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on the political parties in the selection of candidates in the Rajasthan assembly elections 2023 as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to around 17 per cent of candidates with criminal cases. The Supreme Court in its directions dated 13th February 2020 had specifically instructed political parties to give reasons for such selection and why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates,” said ADR in a press release.
As per the apex court guidelines, the reasons for such selections have to be with reference to the qualifications, achievements, and merit of the candidate concerned. But it has been observed that parties gave unfounded reasons like the popularity of the person, good social work, and cases being politically motivated. These are not sound reasons for fielding candidates with tainted backgrounds.
Among major parties, 61 (31 per cent) out of 200 candidates analysed from BJP, 47 (24 per cent) out of 199 from INC, 12 (6 per cent) out of 185 from BSP, 18 (21 per cent) out of 86 from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), 28 (36 per cent) out of 78 from the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), 13 (72 per cent) out of 18 from CPI(M), and 2 (12 per cent) out of 17 candidates analysed from Bhartiya Tribal Party have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits, a press release issued by ADR said.
There are 36 candidates with declared cases related to crime against women, the report said. The cases include one related to rape and four related to murder. Thirty-four candidates are facing attempt to murder cases.
The ADR-NEW report further finds that 45 (23 per cent) out of 200 constituencies are marked as ‘red alert’. These are the seats where three or more candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves. In 2018, 48 (24 per cent) constituencies had three or more candidates with declared criminal cases.
The ADR-NEW report also reveals that all major political parties have allotted tickets to wealthy candidates.
The number of candidates with declared assets of more than Rs 1 crore are as follows: 176 (88 per cent) out of 200 candidates from BJP, 167 (84 per cent) from INC, 36 (20 per cent), 29 (34 per cent) out of 86 candidates analysed from AAP, 36 (46 per cent) out of 78 candidates from RLP, 5 (28 per cent) out of 18 candidates analysed from CPI(M) and 1 (6 per cent) out of 17 candidates analysed from Bhartiya Tribal Party.