The Times of India

BHOPAL: With 25% members in Madhya Pradesh state assembly facing criminal charges Supreme Court judgment which intends to keep convicted leaders out of power should play a crucial role in selection of candidates during forthcoming assembly elections, feel activists.

The issue is relevant for the state which is going for elections this year because, an analysis of affidavits submitted by legislators during assembly elections 2008, by volunteer organization Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) says 55 MLAs were having criminal cases against them and out of that nearly 50%i.e., 25 MLAs are having serious criminal cases.

List of legislators having criminal cases also includes four ministers-industries minister Kailash Vijaywarigya, minority affairs minister Ajay Vishnoi, home minister Umashankar Gupta and UAD minister Babulal Gaur.

Analysis by ADR also pointed out of 62 MLAs of INC- 21 have criminal cases. Of 143 MLAs of BJP, 28 and six MLAs from other parties have criminal cases.

State co-ordinator for ADR Rolly Shivhare said, "This is a landmark judgment and is a first step towards election reforms. What will follow is another issue, but certainly criminals should be discouraged in politics."

It should also be considered by political parties while distributing tickets to the candidates, she added.

However, representatives of political parties reiterated their statement terming cases as political and an attempt to malign their leaders.

State BJP media in charge Dr Hitesh Bajpai said, "Our party has always been against criminalization of politics."

"The cases against all our leaders is an attempt to malign their image as the opponents don't stand anywhere when it comes to work and public appeal of our leaders they take this route to damage their image," he alleged.

We are confident that our leaders will be acquitted from these cases, he said.

The opposition Congress leaders passed the buck on their high command.

State Congress spokesperson Narendra Singh Saluja said, "We will adhere to whatever our party decides at national level on the issue and stick to instructions."

However, a Congress leader pleading anonymity said, "I personally feel it is a landmark judgment and if becomes a law it will help in weeding out criminals from politics."

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