Around 17 per cent of 1,875 candidates in Rajasthan assembly elections have declared criminal cases against them, with 36 candidates 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).
Of the candidates facing criminal cases 13 per cent face ‘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.
Rajasthan goes to polls on November 25 (Saturday). The elections in Rajasthan are part of the month-long election cycle that is expected to set the tone for the 2023 general elections, expected to take place within months in April-May 2024. The other states having polls are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram.
The ADR-NRW report comes at a time when the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan has lately faced flak over crimes against women, particularly against Dalit and tribal women. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also raised the issue in light of the assembly elections.
What does the report say?
Among candidates fielded by the major political parties —national and major regional parties— there are 61 candidates with criminal cases against them, according to the ADR-NEW report.
The ADR press release said, “Among the major parties, 61(31 per cent) out of 200 candidates analysed from BJP, 47 (24 per cent) out of 199 candidates analysed from INC, 12 (6 per cent) out of 185 candidates analysed from BSP, 18 (21 per cent) out of 86 candidates analysed from AAP, 28 (36 per cent) out of 78 candidates analysed from Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, 13 (72 per cent) out of 18 candidates analysed 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.
The party-wise figures for ‘serious’ cases are as follows:
- BJP : 42 (21 per cent)
- INC : 34 (17 per cent)
- BSP : 8 ( 4 per cent)
- AAP : 15 (17 per cent)
- RLP : 24 (31 per cent)
- CPI(M): 12 (67 per cent
- BTP : 1 (6 per cent)
36 candidates booked for crimes against women
As per the report, there are 36 candidates with declared cases related to crime against women, which includes one case related to rape and four related to murder. There are also 34 candidates with attempt to murder against themselves.
The ADR-NEW report further finds that 45 (23 per cent) out of 200 constituencies are marked as ‘red alert’ constituencies. 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 report notes that this shows that 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 a 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 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. During the ongoing month-long election cycle, it was observed that parties gave unfounded reasons like popularity of the person, good social work, and cases being politically-motivated. These are not sound reasons for fielding candidates with tainted backgrounds.
Major parties field wealthy candidates
The ADR-NEW report also reveals that all major political parties gave tickets to wealthy candidates.
The figures for 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 Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, 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.
Social activist Nikhil Dey flagged that the BJP has given a ticket to Kanwarlal Meenam who has openly threatened a rival candidate.
Dey told Outlook, “It is clear that BJP is giving tickets to criminals and is not bothered about the backgrounds of candidates. People must think about all this before going for the poll. Kanwarlal Meena is given a ticket by the BJP in the 2023 elections from the Anta constituency of Baran district. He had threatened the opponent candidate openly on 12 November 2023. He was convicted in another case from ADJ court and has mentioned about stay on conviction in the affidavit. While the stay order is attached, there is no order even on the High Court’s website.”
“Moreover, in Rajasthan, Election Watch, a citizen’s group which has been working for free and fair elections for the last two decades, had filed an application for permission from the chief electoral officer on October 23 to have a state-wide yatra from October 26, but we are yet to receive any reply stating approval or disapproval,” added Dey, who is a part of the Election Watch in Rajasthan.