|Introduction: Briefly explain the criminalization of politics in India.|
Body: What are its impact and measures to deal with the issue?
Conclusion: Way forward.
The criminalization of politics is a situation where there is a sizeable presence of criminals in the politics itself. The criminalization of politics leads to a large no of criminals participating in and contesting elections of parliament and state assemblies. When criminals turn into elected representatives and become lawmakers, they pose a serious threat to the functioning of a democratic system. According to data from the ADR, the number of candidates with criminal charges elected to Parliament in India has been on the rise since 2004. In 2004, 24% of parliamentarians had pending criminal cases, which rose to 43% in 2019. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 159 MPs had declared serious criminal cases against them, including those of rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women.
Impact on the democratic structure of India:
- Against free and fair election: The growing nexus between criminals and politicians leads to intimidation of voters using fear and violence. Criminals resort to illegitimate expenditure to buy votes and promote a freebies culture.
- Adverse impact on governance: Criminal politicians use their influence in posting and transfer of bureaucrats and thereby impact the governance of the state.
- Create division in society: They take advantage of division in society based on caste, class, and religion and portray themselves as protector of their communities. Thus they harm the social fabric of the nation.
- Frequent disruption of Parliament: Criminals as politicians are not trained parliamentarians and often resort to unparliamentary practices to create disruption in the parliament and state assembly which impacts the functioning of the representative institution.
- Huge pendency of cases: Since politicians with criminal pasts become ministers, and lawmakers it becomes difficult for state agencies to prosecute them which leads to high pendency of criminal cases in the judiciary.
Suggestions to address this issue:
- State funding of elections: It would help curb money and muscle power and help serious candidates to contest in elections.
- Election Commission: It is time to strengthen the role of the EC in the regulation of the electoral process and to establish a framework to disqualify candidates with criminal records.
- Responsible role of Parliament: Parliament should establish a strong legal framework that mandates all political parties to revoke the membership of persons against whom charges were framed in heinous and grievous offenses and not to set up such persons in elections for Parliament as also State Assemblies.
- Voter awareness: Voters should be aware of the misuse of money and muscle power in elections. They should refrain from accepting gifts, inducements, and freebies and should utilize the option of NOTA to express resentment against the candidate.
To protect the integrity of democratic systems and advance moral and responsible political leadership, combating the criminalization of politics necessitates a multifaceted strategy encompassing legal, institutional, and societal measures.