The Times of India
Serious criminal charges like murder, attempt to murder and rape have been made against 44 of 346 or 13% of the candidates contesting from 19 constituencies in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections in the state on April 17. In all, 71 or 21% of them have ‘criminal cases’ against them. 
    The affidavits of 11 of the total 357 candidates in the fray from Marathwada and western Maharashtra could not be analyzed as they were unavailable or incomplete. 
    The mainstream parties — Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena and BJP — are again the worst offenders, with 20 of their 33 candidates (60.6%) facing ‘criminal’ cases. Of them, a massive 55% or 11 have serious charges like rape and murder against their names (see box). In Phase I, candidates of the leading parties stumbled with accusations like kidnapping and criminal intimidation. 
    Three candidates have declared cases related to murder, two for attempt to murder and a Pune candidate has revealed a rape charge to the Election Commission, said the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Maharashtra Election Watch (MHEW). 
    Padamsinh Bajirao Patil, NCP candidate from Osmanabad, has declared two charges related to murder. Raju Shetty of Swabhiman Paksha from Hatkanangle and Sandip Mozar, an Independent candidate, have each declared a murder charge. Shetty also has an attempt to murder case against him, as has Shiv Sena’s Shivaji Adhalrao Dattareya from Shirur. 
    Interestingly, Shivaji’s descendant Udyanraje Pratapsinh Bhonsale, the Satara candidate for NCP, has the pages declaring criminal cases missing from his affidavit. The sitting MP, in his 2009 affidavit, had mentioned several cases against him, including murder and kidnapping. 
    NCP has put up the maximum candidates with serious crimes against their names. “In case of Bajirao Patil, he is not a convicted candidate. Unless a verdict is passed by court that he is guilty, he continues to remain innocent,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Mallik. 
    In another shock, AAP, which has claimed ‘zero tolerance’ for candidates with criminal charges, has fielded five with cases against them in the second phase. Two of them, including Maruti Bhapkar from Maval, are facing serious charges. 
    “Maruti Bhapkar is a hero in Arvind Kejriwal’s book, Swaraj. He won a civic election by going from village to village on a cycle, without using black money. He is Maharashtra’s most respected leader in AAP. We knew about the cases put up against him during protests... We will contest those charges in court,” said Preeti Sharma Menon, th state AAP spokesperson. 
    For change, voters must shun tainted politicians, said observers. “Almost all parties have put up candidates with serious charges. The voters should teach these parties a lesson by not voting for them,” said Sharad Kumar, state co-ordinator, Maharashtra Election Watch.
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