'31% MLAs in Gujarat Assembly Have Criminal Records'
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Around 31 per cent MLAs in the newly-formed 13th Gujarat Assembly have criminal antecedents with Congress dominating the list as far as overall percentage is concerned, whereas the ruling BJP hogging the tainted 'top ten' who have serious charges, including rape, against them.

"Out of 182 candidates who got elected in the Gujarat Assembly, 57 MLAs or 31 per cent have declared criminal cases against them, which is a 5 per cent increase compared to 47 MLAs or 26 per cent in 2007 Assembly elections," said Dr Jagdeep Chhokar of Gujarat Election Watch (GEW) here in a press conference today.

GEW is launched by the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR) set up by the professors of Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Among legislators who had filed affidavits with the Election Commission declaring serious criminal cases against them included Jetha Bharwad (Ahir) of BJP who has been charged with rape among other charges including attempt to murder.

Bharwad, who got elected from Shehara constituency in Panchmahal district, had recently been charged with attempted murder when he got involved in a firing incident on the day of second phase of polling on December 17 in Tarsang village.

According to GEW, out of 57 MLAs who have declared criminal cases against them, 24 legislators have "very serious" charges against them.

"We are appealing to the ruling party in Gujarat that an MLA having criminal cases against him should not be made minister", said Dr Chhokar.

As per the report, among major political parties', Congress tops the chart with 20 out of its total 61 MLAs who got elected have criminal cases against them.

Ruling BJP, which contested all 182 seats, has total 115 MLAs in new Assembly, out of which 28 per cent, that is 32 MLAs, have criminal cases.

According to Election Watch, those figure prominently among top 10 MLAs facing serious criminal charges six belonged to BJP, including Amit Shah, Shankar Chaudhary, Babulal Jamnadas Patel, Purshottam Solanki, Jetha Bharwad and Dilip Patel.

Former minister of state for Home Amit Shah, elected from Naranpura seat has been facing cases of murder and kidnapping. He is also an accused in alleged fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsi Prajapati.

As far as the percentage is concerned, all the elected MLAs of NCP (2) and JD (U) (1) have criminal cases against them, besides two Congress MLAs who are facing serious criminal cases.

Chhotubhai Vasava of JD(U), elected from Jhagadia seat, has 3 charges related to murder, 9 charges of dacoity and 7 charges of theft out of 28 cases registered against him.

NCP's Kandhal Jadeja, son of 'godmother' Santokben, and Jayant Patel, elected from Kutiyana and Umreth constituencies, respectively, too have serious cases against them.

"Significantly, there is an increase in political participation in Gujarat as compared to the 2007 Assembly elections when 1,268 candidates had contested representing 39 parties. In 2012 elections, a total of 1,666 candidates fought the polls representing 52 parties," said Dr Chhokar.

He said the 2012 elections saw a growth of 33 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively, in number of parties and candidates.

Out of 57 MLAs who are facing criminal cases, charges have been framed against 34 MLAs on various counts, according to a GEW report.
Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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