Opinion

Why and how ‘working’ filmstars and leaders with criminal background get tickets to fight elections!

Should full-time actors and actresses fight elections? Can they understand ground realities of their constituency? And how are the leaders with criminal charges on them allowed to contest elections

Humra Quraishi

I Don’t know what your reaction was when you saw Dharmendra going about in Uttar Pradesh, campaigning for his wife, Hema Malini. It was rather a hopeless sight, to see this ageing actor fly down from Mumbai for a day or two, just to tell the potential voters that they ought to vote for his wife! And it was even worse to see him getting somewhat curt and rude with the people gathered there, telling one of the onlookers to move away and not come too close! He perhaps forgot that he’s the one pleading for their votes and cannot afford to be coming up with aggressive dos and don’ts.

In fact, just the other day on this question about the celebrities ‘maintaining’ two wives at one given time, Dharmendra’s name topped the list, followed by Raja Reddy, Udit Narayan and Mahesh Bhatt. And now another question cropped up: should full-time, ageing actors and actresses fight elections? Without moving from the comforts of their Bollywood environment can they even visualise the problems faced by the people of their constituency? Without moving far away from all the gaudy glitter of showbiz, can they actually grasp the ground realities of the rural or real India? Without tucking aside their acting capabilities or abilities can they genuinely connect and bond with the masses they plan to represent? Isn’t it blatantly unfair for the masses, if their so called elected ‘actor leaders’ continue with their acting careers and also indulge in this side business, that is, politics?

I would have been impressed with Hema Malini, if in the midst of all those posed filmi shots along an agricultural stretch of her constituency, she had also spoken about the sheer distress the farmers have been facing. After all, the budgetary allocation to agriculture has come down to 2.36% from 2.38%. Also, the farmers’ income has been stagnant for the last four years, with it now being the lowest in 25 years. Also, the government has not been fulfilling its promise on the MNREGA. According to the requirements of the states, an estimated ₹80,000 crore is required, whereas the government is providing only ₹55,000 crore. Also, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) is making little inroads, simply because it is not reaching out to the farmer, and with that not lessening his plight.

Another aspect that has been bothering me about today’s political candidates is that many of them have criminal cases against them yet they are fighting elections! Why? How? Whatever happened to all those lengthy findings and detailed reports which focused on the political who’s who involved in rapes and kidnapping and rioting? Instead of getting side-lined or ousted for times to come, we are seeing their faces all over, as always throwing up filth and dirt. Not to overlook the fact that several of the hard core elements in today’s government are coming up with abusive communal comments yet they are not quietened. Why? Is this the face of clean India?

If you recall, in the summer of 2017 ( August 2017), a study conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government organisation working for electoral reforms, brought forth hitting facts on the country’s lawmakers : As many as 51 MPs and MLAs have declared cases of crime against women, including alleged rape and abduction. Of the 51, 48 are Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and three are Members of Parliament (MPs). Giving party-wise details, the study stated that among various recognised parties, the BJP has the highest number of MPs and MLAs (14), followed by the Shiv Sena (7) and the All India Trinamool Congress (6) who have declared cases related to crime against women.

ADR and National Election Watch analysed 4,852 out of 4,896 election affidavits of current MPs and MLAs. This includes 774 out of 776 affidavits of MPs and 4,078 out of 4,120 MLAs from all the states of India. Out of the analysed 1,581 (33%) MPs and MLAs with declared criminal cases, 51 have declared cases related to crimes against women. The 334 candidates, who had declared cases related to crime against women, were given tickets by recognised political parties. Among these candidates, 40 were given tickets by parties for Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha elections. Various leading political parties have given tickets to 294 candidates with cases related to crime against women for state assembly elections. The study also brought into focus the fact that in the last five years, 19 independent candidates with declared cases related to crime against women contested in the LS and RS elections. And 103 independent candidates with declared cases related to crime against women contested in the state assembly polls.

Nothing seems changed today - in the summer of 2019. Tainted politicians have been given tickets and are fighting elections. You have the likes of Sakshi Maharaj (who happens to be the Member of Parliament from Unnao - where a 16 year was raped by BJP’s sitting MLA) who has several criminal cases against him and not long back he was also seen inaugurating a night club in Lucknow! Taking you still further, criminal charges are pending against Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Yogi Adityanath. Not just that, he also initiated the process of ‘removing’ or ‘dropping’ charges against several of his tainted BJP ministers and political workers. Yes, not long back he had even announced that his government was bringing a law to withdraw “politically-motivated” cases, registered against ministers, legislators and others in the state. Critics had pointed out that the proposed law sought to scrap about 20,000 such cases registered in the various areas of the state!

There is a long list of politicians with criminal background and with criminal charges slapped on them, yet they continue to fight elections. Why and how!

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