Bihar Elections: One In Three Candidates In Phase-1 Have Pending Criminal Cases
A voter standing in a voting booth casts a ballot at a polling station in India. (Photographer: Kanishka Sonthalia/Bloomberg)

Bihar Elections: One In Three Candidates In Phase-1 Have Pending Criminal Cases

Almost a third of the candidates contesting in the first phase of the upcoming Bihar election have a pending criminal case registered against them.

From among 1,064 candidates contesting in the first phase, 328, or 31%, have declared criminal cases against themselves, an analysis of candidates’ affidavits by the Association of Democratic Reforms India and MyNeta showed. Of these, 244, or 23%, have serious criminal cases that are non-bailable offences with punishments over 5 years like assault, murder corruption or crimes against women.

Rashtriya Janata Dal has fielded the most candidates with criminal cases, followed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Lok Janshakti Party and the Indian National Congress.

Bihar goes to polls in three phases for a total of 243 seats. The first phase for 71 seats will be conducted on Oct. 28, the second phase for 94 seats on Nov. 3 and the third for the remaining 78 will be on Nov. 7.

This comes even as the Supreme Court, in February, ordered political parties to publish criminal records of candidates and provide reasons to voters as to why a candidate with a clean slate could not be chosen instead. The Election Commission followed up with a directive in March with an aim to deter parties from fielding candidates with criminal records.

That, however, failed to create much of a difference in the Bihar polls—the first election since the Supreme Court’s order.

“This data clearly shows that political parties have no interest in reforming the electoral system and our democracy will continue to suffer at the hands of lawbreakers who become lawmakers,” ADR said in its report.

Also read: 1,464 Candidates In Fray For Second Phase Of Bihar Assembly Polls

The electoral reform advocacy group noted that the parties did provide reasons for selecting candidates with a criminal past but those “unfounded and baseless”. Reasons like “popularity of the person”, “does good social work” or “cases are politically motivated” are “not sound and cogent reasons” for fieding candidates with tainted backgrounds, ADR said.

To be sure, 57% of the 243 members of the current Bihar assembly have criminal cases against them. Of these, 39% have declared serious criminal cases.

The report also noted that 61 out of 71 constituencies going to poll in the first phase have at least three or more candidates with criminal background contesting. The Gurua seat from Gaya district has the most contestants with a criminal background at 10 out 23.

Other Highlights From Report

  • Over 35% of the candidates have declared assets of over Rs 1 crore.
  • The average assets per candidate is Rs 1.99 crore.
  • Only 11% of the candidates in phase-1 are women.
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