sort of politician-criminal nexus is by no means unique
to our state. A study undertaken by Election Commission
estimated that approximately 700 out of the 4072 legislators
in the country have a criminal record. We all know only
too well the extent of criminalization of polity in states
like Bihar, UP and in cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
this mean that all our political parties are inherently
criminal in nature? I would say NO. There are many honourable
and eminent politicians who have and are doing a terrific
job in the service of the public. In the same token, I do
believe that most major political parties are genuinely
interested in public good. In fact operating under highly
strenuous circumstances, they are trying to do a valiant
job of giving due representation to public opinion. The
unanimity of the entire political spectrum in freezing the
number of parliamentary constituencies in each state for
25 years, is a testimony to their patriotic credentials.
Delimitation based on population would have jeopardized
national unity by, creating North-South divide. Even though
many of the north Indian parties had a lot to gain from
delimitation they refused to do so in the larger national
interest. Then why is this politician-criminal nexus formed
and what sustains it?
the nature of our electoral system, the legislative office
is not perceived by both the candidates and the general
public as one of law making and oversight. Legislators are
seen as the disguised executive. In a caste-ridden society
like India, the politics at the constituency level are controlled
by the local dominant caste. When these local groups elect
the disguised executive in the form of a legislator, what
they are looking for is control of the executive branch
of government through that legislator. What the dominant
groups want is a legislator who can get a local police or
revenue official transferred, who can intervene on behalf
of the accused in a criminal case, or at best one who can
be a dispenser of patronage in the form of many government
welfare schemes. In our system of democracy, these legislators'
support is critical for the survival of the government.
Rarely is this support given on the basis of principles
or ideology or public opinion. Invariably, there is a price
extracted for such support, which can be in many forms.
The executive is then at the mercy of the legislators, on
whose continued good will and support its survival depends.
the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of elections that
we have the candidate who obtains the highest number of
votes is elected irrespective of his support base. Given
the fragmented nature of our polity, the absence of a two
party system, and the low voter turnout, it is often enough
for the winning candidate to just get a plurality and not
the majority of the votes cast. Therefore elections at the
local level are often a test of supremacy of the local dominant
groips. All means - money, muscle power, other inducements,
threats, brute force - are liberally employed to get elected
locally. And all these means are only at the disposal of
the criminal and nefarious elements, without whose support
no party/candidate can win an election in many constituencies.
if one party refuses to harbor criminal elements, the opposing
party immediately takes advantage and ropes in their support.
Therefore there is no incentive for any major political
party to deny entry of criminal elements and in fact they
are penalized heavily if they chose to stay clean.
it is quite clear that the politician-criminal nexus goes
beyond individuals and is the result of systemic lacunae.
The sensible way out is to adopt a proportional representation
system of elections coupled with direct election of chief
minister at the state level. Only then can clean candidates
enter the political process and be elected to public office.
And only then can governments remain honest and public-spirited
in their actions.