The Shillong Times

Crime and politics are synonymous. Data revealed by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) a watchdog on politics, political parties and elections, the number of candidates with criminal charges getting elected to Parliament has been on the rise since 2004. Same is the case with State legislatures. The number of Parliamentarians with pending criminal cases has risen from 24% in 2004 to 43% in 2019. To expect accountable and transparent governance from such political representatives is a utopian dream. Political parties don’t care about the criminal antecedents of their candidates as long as the winnability factor is there. In fact, political parties rise in defence of the candidate and rubbish the criminal charges against them as political vendetta. In the recent raid into the farmhouse of BJP, Vice President and Tura MDC, Bernard Marak at Edenbari, Tura which he claims is being run as a homestay, Marak a former militant asserts that the entire exercise is political vendetta at the behest of Chief Minister, Conrad Sangma his political rival from the same constituency.
While a person is innocent until proven guilty what is curious is Bernard Marak’s present fugitive status. He has refused to surrender before the law to allow it to take its course and decide on the criminality or otherwise of his actions. Marak is accused of turning his so-called guest house into a brothel which he vigorously denies. Meanwhile he has also alleged that some senior police officials are out to get him. That the BJP, a Party that claims a moral high ground as far as inducting people into the Party is concerned should even consider anointing a surrendered militant as the State Vice President is fraught. But there being no takers for the Party in Meghalaya, after the likes of TH Rangad a man of substance – passed away – the BJP has had to settle in for people who lack credibility.
Giving tickets to candidates with serious criminal charges has actually eroded the trust of large sections of citizens. But there are always those who can be lured to vote for such tainted people. This betrays the electoral mandate of the mindful voters and corrodes the fundamental tenets of the party system apart from destabilising elected governments and reducing the value of politics from a transformative tool for social change to serving individual interests, a political business cycle. The harsh reality in this country today is that Parliament has refused to legislate a law curbing the entry of criminals in politics. The Supreme Court too has refused to enter into this domain calling it a matter for the legislature to deal with. At the end of the day the role of voters in rejecting candidates with criminal antecedents becomes paramount.

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