On February 11, residents in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a northern Indian state, began the process of voting for the 403 men and women who would serve in the state legislature. In India, where elections are as common as a new Bollywood blockbuster, the announcement of yet another election is hardly a reason for celebration. However, the next election in Uttar Pradesh is far from routine.
UP has a population of about 200 million people. If Uttar Pradesh were a nation, it would be the seventh biggest in the world. It is India’s most populated state, responsible for 17% of the total population of the country. As a result, it is unsurprising that it is the most valuable prize in Indian politics, second only to winning a democratic election.
UP, on the other hand, has a special significance this year. The election comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration in New Delhi enters its third year in office. As a result, the election is largely regarded as a referendum on his administration’s performance.
However, the survey is significant for reasons other than popularity perception.
Because India’s upper chamber of parliament is indirectly chosen by its 31 state legislatures, winning crucial state elections is the only method to change the makeup of that body. While the BJP earned a comfortable majority in India’s upper house of Parliament in the vote of May 2014, it still has a small majority in the upper chamber.
Doing well in UP is critical for the party’s upper-house status. Predicting the outcome of a UP election is dangerous. Unlike several Indian states, where there are only two main political parties, Uttar Pradesh has four. The message is further muddied by alliances and governments of convenience. Regardless of who wins, a large percentage of legislators elected on March 11—when the vote results are tallied—will be implicated in breaking the law.
In India, the dominance of the police, government funds, crime, weak laws, a lack of ethics and morals, political base politics, and flaws in the election tribunal’s role are all examples of trafficking in persons. The major cause for the rise of new systems of conflict resolution in India is the country’s poor rule of law.
It’s a good connection between crime and governance in India. One-third of national lawmakers are now involved in at least one criminal prosecution, and one in five are facing accusations that might result in real jail time if they were convicted.
To put it kindly, the UP’s criminal politicians are a colorful lot. Take, for example, Raja Bhaiya, a strongman who is said to have once loaded a lake on his real estate with live crocodiles, threatening to feed his enemy forces if they traversed him.
Raja Bhaiya was elected in 2012 despite being charged with eight criminal offenses, including kidnapping, reckless endangerment, and kidnapping. He was admitted into the government and given leadership of the prisons ministry, which was an amusing twist.
Raja Bhaiya and Ansari may appear to be extreme cases, yet they are far from being anomalies. In the 2012 election in Uttar Pradesh, up to 45 percent of lawmakers took the oath of office despite facing criminal charges. In terms of percentages, this puts UP towards the top of the list of Indian states.
The link between crime and the party system stretches back to the early years before nationalism when parties would make arrangements with strongmen (known as goondas in Hindi) to conduct their dirty workaround elections. The Gandhiji, the party that fought for India’s independence from the British Raj, caused politics in the early years of the country.
Criminals, on the other hand, have gradually moved from the margins of politics to the center, aided by a deteriorating Congress, increasing identity politics, expensive elections, and the hollowing out of public institutions. Criminals who had amassed sufficient clout and wealth no longer supported politicians; instead, they turned to politicians. According to estimates, about 8% of UP’s state-level officials were under investigation in 1984; by 2012, that number had more than five-folded.
The prohibition of politics has spread from the legislative to the executive branch, and even from the federal government to the court. According to with Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), the fraction of such voters increased from 15% in 2009 to 17% in the 2013 season and has further and further increased to a grueling 19% in the election campaign in India. The grim picture is that about 13% of nominees who contested the voting in 2019 are blamed for serious crimes that incriminate them.
The success of Raja Bhaiya, Mohamed Ansari, and others can be attributed to voter apathy. After all, when it comes to indices like literacy and poverty, UP has consistently trailed behind the national average. However, people in Uttar Pradesh, and India as a whole, frequently have a clear, strategic reason for supporting leaders accused of a crime. Members utilize their illegality as a badge of honor—a proof of their reliability and will do whatever it takes to promote their community—in countries where the constitution is weak and societal divides (such as caste, tribal, and religious differences) are entrenched.
This year’s enormous political exercise in Uttar Pradesh will take place in seven stages within the next 4 days. While candidates are still filing their candidacy papers, early indicators indicate that the crime-politics link isn’t going away anytime soon. Twenty percent of the 836 republican nominees for seats in the first phase of the election had pending criminal records, while 17 percent have serious cases. According to India’s main election monitor, three or more contestants with disclosed criminal charges are running in 26 of the 73 seats in this first phase.
These judicial rap sheets, which are provided by candidates themself, are a priceless resource for putting pressure on India’s democratic underbelly. They have not, nonetheless, shown to be decisive in influencing voter behavior. It’s a safe bet that UP’s criminal senators will continue to prowl until government catches up with public ambitions.
Surprisingly, in 2009, 30% of lawmakers of the Lok Sabha had criminal charges filed against them, which increased to 34% in 2014 and has now reached an alarming level of 43% for voting representatives of the Lok Sabha in 2019. The stark image that 29 percent of individuals elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019 had declared major offenses helps us understand the depth of the infection.
The fate of any country is determined by its politics. “Democracy is a true democracy, by the citizens, and for the people,” declares Abraham Lincoln. The rule of law, on the other hand, is currently only found in books.
Criminals, influential individuals, and machines have concocted a lethal concoction that is now revealed to be toxic to society. Corruption and punishment of politics threaten to destroy democracy’s foundations. In India’s politics, the criminalization of politics has become a long-term trend. It is obliterating the true meaning of DEMOCRACY.
No political party is taking steps to reduce or eliminate criminal individuals from its ranks since they are ultimately useful to them. As a result, it is a critical time for Parliament to take action to curb this menace. We need to modify the government’s nature, making it more open, responsible, and pervasive.
This is a difficult undertaking, but we are not helpless; we can educate people (voters) about their rights and encourage them to vote for the best candidate. Our leader should have been someone who does not buy votes and does not accept bribes once elected. We need clean elections because we want pure politics.