Indian polls to see 63 candidates with criminal records

New Delhi-based non-profit body says 39 candidates have serious charges against them.
By Neeraj Gangal
Sun 05 Apr 2009 12:01 PM

As many as 63 candidates with criminal records will contest India's elections, with 39 having serious charges against them, according to a New Delhi-based NGO, National Election Watch (NEW).The world's largest democracy will vote to elect its 18th Prime Minister in a phased manner from 16 April to 13 May. The results of the five-phased process will be announced on Saturday, 16 May. The scheduled dates of elections are April 16, April 22, April 23, April 30, May 7 and May 13, 2009.

The parties fielding these 'tainted' candidates include the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Communist Party of India (CPI), and the Samajwadi Party, the National Election Watch (NEW) says on its website, www.nationalelectionwatch.org .

NEW represents more than 1,200 NGOs and other citizen-led organisations working on electoral reforms, improving democracy and governance in India. The NGO looked at the candidate lists declared by political parties and checked the records of these candidates with over 50,000 records it has been accumulating since 2003.

The long list comes despite an earlier campaign by another Delhi-based non-profit organisation called Public Interest Foundation, which had launched a nation-wide plea to political parties to refrain from fielding election candidates with tainted personal records.

"There is little public pressure on political parties to not give tickets to such individuals. In 2004, about 20% of those who were elected to Parliament had criminal antecedents. This problem is prevalent across most political parties. This tears into the moral fabric of the country and has an impact on governance," the foundation says on its website. The NGO has listed the tainted candidates and their offences on its website, www.nocriminals.org .

The general election for the 15th Lok Sabha (lower house) in the world’s largest democracy sets the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which includes Congress, against the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Lal Krishna Advani’s BJP leads the opposition alliance, and early polls predict an opposition victory.

The Lok Sabha has 543 constituencies, with separate seats reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The elections are held once every five years, and they are held under the simple first-past-the-post system, where members of a legislative assembly are based on single-member constituencies. The geography of the constituency is divided based on the population rather than the actual size.

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