The Times of India

MUMBAI: Several citizen groups came together on Monday and appealed to Mumbaikars to vote for "clean" candidates in the upcoming state assembly polls. This comes in the wake of a letter sent out by AGNI (Action for Good Governance and Networking in India) to all political parties urging them not to give tickets to those candidates who have serious criminal charges pending against them.

The organizations, including AGNI, PRAJA and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) stressed the fact that there was a growing demand from citizens to project honest and upright candidates for the elections.

D M Sukthankar, chairman and managing trustee of AGNI, said, "The Supreme Court's rulings on July 10, 2013 and March 10, 2014 vindicates our efforts over many years. AGNI and its partner organizations have networks with memberships in Mumbai totalling over one lakh. They will not vote for candidates with criminal records. To help voters make an informed choice we will widely circulate a sheet containing comparative statements of sworn information from each candidate about his/ her assets, liabilities, criminal records (in any) and educational qualifications."

The group spoke extensively about how in July 2013, the SC had held that chargesheeted MPs and MLAs, on conviction for offences, would be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House without being given three months' time for appeal, as was the case before.

Activist Shyama Kulkarni, trustee AGNI said, "It is necessary for citizens to be the watchdog in order to make the elected representatives feel transparent and accountable. The candidate must essentially be able to put forth those kinds of questions in the assembly that are going to affect the people of his constituency."

Meanwhile, Nitai Mehta, managing trustee of Praja Foundation, gave his inputs by putting forth the statistics of the MLA report cards which they bring out every year. A report card is a rating of the elected representative's performance. "An annual survey of 22,000 households, which Praja does every year indicates that focused of the elected representatives is disengaged with reality and commuters continued to be stuffed in trains, Mumbaikars still feel unsafe and conviction is serious crime has come down from 9% to 7%."

Ajit Ranade from the ADR said that as per the affidavits filed by the candidates, 17 out of the 36 MLAs analyzed have declared criminal cases against themselves. Out of 17 MLAs, 12 have declared serious criminal cases. These include extortion, robbery, promoting, and enmity between two groups.

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