Over the last 10 years, crime and money have been playing a larger than ever role in Indian electoral politics, reflecting a marked rise in the wealth of many winning candidates with criminal records.

Of the 62,847 Parliamentary and Assembly candidates since 2004, a good 11,063 (18 per cent) have declared criminal cases against themselves. Of these, 8 per cent have declared ‘serious’ criminal cases, says an analysis by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) of the affidavits filed by the candidates with the Election Commission.

Releasing its findings here on Monday, ADR also noted a striking correlation between a candidate’s criminal status and his/her financial status. “While the average assets of 62,847 candidates, stood at Rs 1.37 crore, those of MPs and MLAs stood at Rs 3.83 crore,” said Trilochan Shastry, lead analyst of the ADR, a non-governmental organisation, at a press conference.

That’s not all. There are a number of such candidates who re-contested and saw an overall increase in their wealth. Of the 4,181 re-contesting candidates, 3,173 showed an average wealth increase of Rs 2.34 crore, with their average assets rising from Rs 1.74 crore to Rs 4.08 crore.

In a break-up of political parties, 75 per cent of Shiv Sena MPs and MLAs since 2004 have declared criminal cases against them, followed by Rashtriya Janata Dal with 46 per cent such candidates and Janata Dal (United) with 44 per cent. Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress were at 31 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively.

However, in terms of average assets, the highest have been reported by Shiromani Akali Dal candidates at Rs 6.02 crore, followed by Telugu Desam Party at Rs 5.61 crore.

Incidentally, the rising trend of ‘criminalisation’ of politics coincides with the advent of globalisation and coalitions in India. “Yes, money started playing a big role after globalisation and the simultaneous rise of smaller parties. But, the blame lies squarely with the two major parties, Congress and BJP, who began ‘horse trading’ in an effort to drum-up majority to remain in power, said a political analyst, citing the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha bribery scandal in 1996.

He said the JMM bribery scandal ushered in the culture of ‘horse trading’ in Indian politics when 10 MPs of the JMM and Janata Dal were paid bribes to cast their votes to defeat a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha against the minority Congress Government, led by P.V. Narasimha Rao.