Introducing Electoral Reforms to Reduce the Influence of Money and Muscle Power In Politics

Nishank Varshney nishank.varshney@gmail.com +91-9785030888

Some Striking Observations from an Analysis* of 62,847 candidates who contested Parliamentary or Assembly elections between 2004-2013
Candidates with criminal charges enjoy a higher Success Rate (23%), which is almost double the success rate of candidates with clean record (12%). Percentage of Criminals among MPs/MLAs varies from 21% to a staggering 75% among the top 20 National and Regional Political Parties. 14% of MPs/MLAs, across all the major parties, have Serious Criminal Charges on them like Murder, Rape, Extortion, Dacoity, Corruption etc. In 15 states, more than 1/4th of our legislators have criminal charges on them. In Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Kerala nearly half the legislators have criminal charges on them, which means they enjoy majority in the house. Average assets of winners, in all the states, are higher by more than 300% when compared to average assets of all the candidates.

Average assets of winners with criminal records are higher than average assets of winners with clean record by a whopping 62 Lakh Rupees.
Success Rate of Clean Independent Candidates is merely 1%, which proves that it is almost impossible for a clean independent candidate to win. * Detailed Analysis is provided in Annexure 1

Threat
It’s the MPs/MLAs who make the Laws and policies. Our country is in danger, if one-third of them are involved in criminal offences.
Increasing entry of criminals and moneyminded people into politics, poses a great threat to the hopes of conducting “free and fair” elections which offends the basic foundation of a healthy democracy.

Causes
Candidates spend more than 10-15 times of prescribed limit, to buy votes by distributing money, liquor or clothes.
While this illegitimate spending might not result in candidate’s victory, but if not spent, it almost certainly results in their defeat. In order to sustain this kind of expenditure in future elections, the candidates indulge in massive corruption & extortion to recover multiple times their expenditure .

How is Criminalization of Politics a Threat ?

Reasons behind Increasing Role of Money & Muscle Power

Concern
Electoral Malpractices are the root cause of Corruption which adversely affects implementation of Social Welfare Policies like Distribution of PDS Grains, NREGA, NHRM etc. Due to the flawed electoral process, it is becoming increasingly difficult for public spirited citizens to enter the field of Politics, without breaking the laws.

Nexus of Crime & Money in Politics
Why is it a Matter of Concern ?

Need
We cannot trust those who break the law, to frame the laws in Parliament or Assembly.

Since all the leading 20 National/Regional Need to Bring Parties have been consistently fielding Electoral Reforms candidates with criminal record over last 10 years, across the length and breadth of this country, there is an immediate need to bring Electoral Reforms to protect the sanctity of our Parliament.

SUGGESTIONS FOR DECRIMINALISATION OF POLITICS

LOOPHOLE As per the current rules, only those candidates who have been convicted in a criminal case are not allowed to contest elections. However, the conviction rate in India is only 40% and a lot of candidates take unfair advantage of the long judicial process. Therefore, Lot of MPs/MLAs have murder/ other serious cases pending against them for as long as 29 years. (Detailed List in Annexure 2) Hence, it has now become important to prevent not only those candidates who have been convicted, but also those against whom criminal cases are pending from long time, from entering our Legislative houses. SUGGESTION Candidates who have been framed* in more than 1 charges by a court of law, in Serious criminal cases, like Murder, Attempt to Murder, Rape, Corruption, extortion, dacoity etc. (Those charges, for which, if convicted, a candidate could be sentenced for more than 2 years, or the case requires the issue of a non bailable warrant, or any election related criminal charge) before the date of filing of nomination, should not be allowed to contest election, till the time they are acquitted by the court.

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ADVANTAGE *Framing of charges by the court is different from registering a case by Police. Charges are framed against the accused only after the police has verified the case and when the court is convinced after hearing both the sides that substantial proofs exist against the accused.

Taking Framed charges into consideration instead of any case registered against the accused, and debarring those candidates who have multiple cases against them will prevent the misuse of false registration of cases (which is the concern of many Political Parties). Because it is highly unlikely that same candidate will be falsely implicated in two different serious criminal cases.
In all the analysis mentioned in previous slides, we have only considered those candidates against whom charges have been framed by the court, and not the cases lodged against them.

SUGGESTIONS Continued No MP/MLA should be allowed to take the post of a Minister if he has any Criminal Charge* pending against him. (He may hold office if the pending case is a review in higher court, for which he has been acquitted by lower court.) Any candidate who has a criminal charge* framed against him for more than 3 years, should not be allowed to contest elections. 3 years is a sufficient time for any candidate to get his cases disposed off. Rajya Sabha/Vidhan Parishad serve as dignified chambers. However, 18% of Rajya Sabha MPs have criminal charges against them, including 6% with Serious Criminal Charges. Therefore, Any candidate who has a Criminal Charge* pending against him, should not be allowed to file nomination for Rajya Sabha or Vidhan Parishad.

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Any Political Party that gives tickets to such candidates should be heavily penalized, and in case of repeated flouting of norms, they should be derecognized.
Provision of Fast Track Courts To dispose the cases on candidates which have been pending for more than 2 years, and any cases against Incumbent MPs/MLAs. They should give their judgment within a specific time period (preferably within 12-18 months) and also provide appropriate witness protection. The trial and investigation should be insulated from any kind of Political Interference. *Criminal Charge should include only those charges listed in Section 8 (1), (2) and (3) of the Representation of the People Act. This will avoid disqualification of candidates over petty issues which may arise out of political vendetta.

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Suggestions to Reduce Impact of Money during Elections

In less than 5 years, the average assets of 4181 candidates who re-contested in elections had grown from Rs.1.74 Crores to Rs.4.08 Crores. About 684 candidates showed an increase of over 500%, 420 of over 800% and 317 of over 1000%. Which clearly is a very abnormal increase. 1. While filing nominations, the candidates must file their Income Tax returns along with declaring their assets in the affidavits. Re-contesting candidates must declare the increase (or decrease) in their assets from last time of contest. They must also mention the sources for this increase (or decrease). In case of abnormal growth of assets, the Income Tax Office should verify the correctness of sources mentioned. Along with their own assets, the candidates should also be required to declare the assets of their immediate family members (Like Parents, Sibling, Spouse and Children.) This information should be made publically available by the Election Commission to all the voters. Candidate’s affidavits should be prominently displayed at each polling booth so that voters can make an informed choice before casting their vote.

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The Election Commission or an appropriate committee appointed by it must verify the declarations made by all the candidates with respect to assets and criminal records with the help of Police, Judiciary or other relevant bodies, within two weeks of filing their nomination papers. Any candidate submitting false information in the affidavit must be immediately disqualified.

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Recently, Mr. Gopinath Munde confessed that he spent nearly 8 Crore Rupees on his election campaign, while the permissible limit is only 40 Lakh Rupees. Moreover, he had declared his assets to be worth nearly 6 Crore Rupees in his affidavit. Therefore, it is obvious that he took external loans to spend this amount, and would definitely use unfair means to recover this cost upon election. And even after this, NO Action has been taken against him. 8. The time limit to submit the election expense report should be reduced from 30 days to 7 days. Because, the candidates already have to get their accounts cross-verified everyday. Giving a long time window reduces the chances of the Observer/ Returning Officer to find appropriate proofs against any false information. The report of the Observer/ Returning Officer, with regards to verification of expenses by the candidate for his election must be made public. Any candidate, whose expenses as stated in the election expense report submitted by him, are found to be wrong, should be immediately disqualified. Declaration of PAN Details must be made compulsory for all the contesting candidates. Currently there are 25 MPs who have declared assets worth Crores of Rupees, but have not furnished their PAN Details. Apart from putting a limit on expenditure by the candidate, there should also be a maximum limit on expenses by Political Parties as well, during election period. This limit can be decide on the basis of number of constituencies.

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The NDA government spent Rs.150 crore in ‘India Shining’ while the UPA 1 spent nearly 100 Crore in 2009, and is expected to spend more than double the amount before 2014 elections on “Bharat Nirmaan” campaign. Such lavish expenditures by the outgoing government, from the State Exchequer, must be curtailed.
It must be made mandatory for all the Political Parties to publish a list of all their income and expenditures every month. The Parties should declare all their Donors, failing which, they be de-recognized and de-registered immediately.

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Suggestions to Increase Representation of Women in Parliament/Assembly

State - Wise Representation of Women

Party - Wise Representation of Women

Present Situation
 Women constitute only 7% of all the candidates. Consequently, they form only 8% of our legislators.  Women candidates enjoy a higher success rate (16%) as compared to male candidates(14%), and Percentage of Criminals among Female Legislators (16%) is much less than the percentage of Criminals among Male Legislators (31%).  It is evident that the women are clearly not being discriminated by the voters, rather the problem is that the Political Parties are not putting up a sufficient number of Women Candidates.  Hence, it is only logical to conclude that with the increase in number of women candidates fielded, subsequently, the proportion of women in Parliament/Assembly will also increase. This will also help in decreasing the number of criminals in Parliament.

Suggestions & Advantages
 Every Political Party (that fields more than 5 candidates in a particular election) must field at least 20% female candidates between 2014-2019 in every election, failing which they be derecognized.
 The figure of 20% be raised to 30% for the period of 2019-2024 and subsequently to 40% for 2024-2029.  Once, the women are empowered to contest on their own, the reservation be withdrawn.

 This would give more flexibility to the political parties in fielding deserving candidates.
 It would do away with the hassles of rotation of reserved seats, as proposed in the Bill passed by Rajya Sabha.  This Proposal if implemented, will promote natural leadership among women, as there will be a healthy competition.

Annexure 1- Nexus between elections, crime and money: Ten years of Election Watch
State Wise Analysis Political Party Wise Analysis

These tables have been prepared by Analysis of Data obtained from Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

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Annexure 2 – List of MPs/MLAs with Long Pending Serious Criminal Charges

Source : www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2380988/Its-official--crime-pays-politics-Study-shows-candidates-facingcriminal-charges-likely-win-elections.html Go Back

References
1. Ten Years of Election Watch - http://adrindia.org/content/nexus-between-elections-crime-and-money-ten-years-election-watch 2. http://adrindia.org/sites/default/files/List%20of%20current%20MLAs-MPs%20with%20Pending%20Cases.pdf 3. Conviction Rate - http://ncrb.gov.in/CD-CII2011/cii-2011/Table%204.12.pdf 4. http://news.oneindia.in/2013/06/29/gopinath-mundes-daredevil-act-lands-him-in-soup-1248260.html 5. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/assembly-elections-2014-congress-campaign-poll-advertising/1/270915.html 6. Images obtained from Google Search.