Date :14-Sep-2023

THE latest report of the election rights body Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) revealing the statistics of the criminal cases and assets of the sitting Members of Parliament (MPs) comes as a fresh reminder of what ails the polity in India. While the report presents an analysis of the self-sworn affidavits of 763 sitting MPs out of total 776 seats of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the findings leave ordinary citizens to feel that there is still a long way to go before the country’s polity becomes fully transparent and clean. Of course, this is not to undermine the achievements so far in the country. In fact, since India gained Independence, much has been achieved. For instance, the number of not only literate but also well educated elected representatives has increased in the past 75 years. Besides, some level of accountability and transparency regarding the background of the MPs has been attained. Besides, several systems have been streamlined as far as enforcement of Model Code of Conduct during the elections are concerned. The handbooks of electoral officers have been amended suitably from time to time based on experiences. Also, with the advent of technology, some new mechanisms are being put in place. All these could be achieved with the help of the well-spirited leaders in the electoral politics, bureaucratic stalwarts like late T N Seshan (former Chief Election Commissioner), and the persistent efforts of the organisations like ADR. Despite all these, there is still much to be desired as is indicated by the latest report of the ADR.
The organisation has analysed the affidavits of the sitting MPs and then has come up with the statistical extract. About 40 per cent of the sitting MPs have criminal cases registered against them out of which 25 per cent have serious criminal cases and facing charges of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women, bring out what kind of reforms are needed in the electoral politics. Not long ago, there was a time when a criminal also could get elected despite contesting election from prison. One can understand that any political leader may have several cases registered against him or her, because of participation in agitations or protests or demonstrations. However, barring these kinds of cases, the sitting MPs facing charges of murder, kidnapping, crimes against women cannot be justified. Even if one considers that some of these cases might have been registered against them out of political vendetta, the fact that others with such serious charges could get elected as MPs calls for electoral reforms. The facts emerging out of ADR report regarding the assets held by the MPs, also underscore the need for increasing accountability of those in politics. It is an open secret that many people enter politics as unemployed individuals.
Gradually, they rise through the ranks in respective party organisation. However, by the time one becomes an elected representative, one has become rich. How? What could be legitimate sources of income that become available to such leaders? These questions have been haunting the ordinary citizens for years. Agreed that some rich individuals might be joining politics to make a difference. But, the same cannot be said about everyone in politics. Also, people are perplexed that elected representatives of all parties --- whether ruling or in Opposition -- are in the same boat on this issue. Also, the vexed issue of bringing transparency in electoral funding, while overcoming reservations of various leaders in all the political parties, needs to be tackled in the larger interest of making the electioneering more transparent. For, without electoral reforms, democratic reforms cannot be achieved.