The Times of India
Fourteen of the 20 or 70% of the candidates put up by the four mainstream parties — the Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena and BJP —for the 10 constituencies voting on April 10 in Maharashtra’s first phase of the Lok Sabha elections have ‘criminal cases’ pending against them. 
    In the rough and tumble of Indian politics, most of these cases are likely to have been notched up during protests and clashes, and a truer reflection of criminal taint in politics could be cases of serious crime. Here too, the leading parties stumbled, with three of the Congress’s seven candidates (43%) and four of the BJP’s six candidates (67%) emerging with accusations of crimes including kidnapping, criminal intimidation and extortion (see box). 
    All four Shiv Sena candidates have FIRs lodged against them, though none of a serious nature. In all, 18% or 36 of the 200 candidates analyzed for the first phase have ‘criminal cases’ against their names, found the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Maharashtra Election Watch (MHEW). Altogether, 201 candidates are in the fray. 
    The analyzing agencies took offences which are non-bailable and attract a maximum punishment of five years to denote serious crime. Thus BJP’s Nagpur candidate Nitin Gadkari has four cases pending against him, including a serious IPC charge related to criminal intimidation. 
    The report says three candidates have declared the maximum serious charges — Ramdas Chandrabhanji Tadas of BJP from Wardha has 10 serious IPC charges, followed by BJP’s Hansraj Gangaram Ahir from Chandrapur with six IPC counts and Bharatraje Uddhaorao Patil of MNS from Yavatmal-Washim with four IPC cases. One of Ahir’s charges relate to kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman to compel her to marriage. 
    “They are only allegations. Whether they are guilty or not has not been proved. The organizations are trying to paint a black picture about politicians. When any candidate mentions criminal cases against him, the violation of section 144, ie gathering a crowd, or unlawful assembly are also considered a crime. In a very technical language, both crimes are painted with the same brush,” said Madhav Bhandari, the BJP spokesperson in Maharashtra. 
    Using the same line of argument, Neelam Gorhe of the Sena, said unlawful assembly cases are slapped on party leaders during andolans. “Crowds more than expected gather, leading to disruption of order. There are many such cases but the candidates cannot be labelled criminals.” 
    Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said: “Most candidates contesting are ministers or MLAs. Many cases filed are related to dharnas, andolans and some are even filed with political vendetta in mind.” 
    Not convinced, Sharad Kumar, state coordinator, ADR, said crimes were duly classified in the report. “We have separated crimes from serious crimes like murder, kidnapping, rape. Despite the efforts of the EC, the SC and voters, the parties have still put up tainted candidates. This is unfortunate.” He added that in a landmark judgment on March 10, the SC ordered trial courts to close criminal cases against MPs and MLAs within a year. So, it is likely there will be re-elections soon when the convicted persons will have to resign like Lalu Prasad Yadav and public money will be wasted.
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