Patna: About a third of the candidates contesting in the first phase of the Bihar assembly elections have criminal records, with mainstream parties contributing significantly to these numbers.

This despite the Election Commission’s letter to political parties in July, stating that they have to provide reasons for fielding candidates with criminal records. The letter was in line with a Supreme Court order in February on the presence of such candidates in the poll fray.

Parties have in many cases attempted to bypass this by fielding wives and relatives of those with criminal records.

“We are still tabulating the affidavits of candidates who have filed for the first phase. We will be coming out with a report. But roughly 30 per cent of the candidates in the first phase have criminal records,” said Rajiv Kumar, the Bihar representative of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), the organisation that brings out an audit report on “criminal candidates” during and after polls.

That is nearly 320 candidates as a total of 1,066 candidates are in the fray for the 74 assembly segments that go to polls on 28 October.

Bihar’s additional chief electoral officer Sanjay Singh said his office was unaware if political parties had explained to the EC on fielding tainted candidates. “The political parties were supposed to send their answers directly to the EC. Our office is not aware if they have set their replies,” he said.

RJD leads the pack

The Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leads the pack when it comes to giving space to ‘tainted candidates’ or their wives.

The party has fielded Anant Singh, who faces around 38 criminal cases, from the Mokama assembly seat. Seven of the cases include murder charges and others range from kidnapping to attempt to murder.

Singh had made his poll debut as a JD(U) candidate in 2005; he had replaced another criminal-turned-politician Suraj Bhan.

Singh has been winning the seat and in 2015 contested as an Independent after falling out with Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar.

The RJD has fielded another history sheeter Reet Lal Yadav — also an Independent MLC — from the Danapur assembly seat. A notorious gangster, Yadav was only recently released from jail. He has been accused of land grabbing, extortion and attempt to murder, among others, but is considered so influential that Lalu Prasad Yadav once visited him in jail to ensure victory of Misa Bharti in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Pataliputra.

The RJD, however, defends its decision. “These candidates are immensely popular in their constituency and work for the welfare of the people. It is up to the voters to decide on the issue,” RJD spokesperson Mritunjay Tiwari told ThePrint.
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