Times of India

Ranchi: At a time when criminalization of politics has emerged as a major concern, nearly half of the candidates in fray for the first phase of polling in the ensuing assembly election are facing criminal charges. An independent study says 92 out of 199 candidates, competing in the November 25 elections across 13 seats are facing criminal charges, some as grave as murder.

Based on affidavits filed by candidates at the time of nomination, the study, conducted by NGOs Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Jharkhand Election Watch, 55 aspirants (28% of total) have criminal charges against them while 37 (19%) have serious criminal offences such as murder to their names.

As many as five candidates fielded by Baulal Marandi-led-Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajantrik (JVM-P) have criminal charges against them, while three of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are booked under criminal offence. Three of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's (JMM) first-phase candidates are tainted while the Congress has two. Lalu Yadav-led-Rashtriya Janata Dal has two with criminal background.

The BJP leadership said candidates were fielded after a thorough background check. "But having said that, the law must take its own course," party state spokesperson Pradeep Sinha said. JMM central general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said the charges against its leaders were during the JP movement. "The charges are testimonies to our struggle for people and as they say, kuch daag acche hain (some stains are good)," Bhattacharya said. Congress leadership said whatever the charges are against its candidates, it would hardly affect the poll outcome.

While a lion's share of candidates is booked by law, a fairly large proportion of them have considerable assets, with 46 of them millionaires. Furthermore, 79 candidates that constitute nearly 40% of the total aspirants have given income tax officials a slip as they did not file their income tax returns. As many as 75 candidates have not divulged their permanent account numbers (PAN) while only 76 have a graduate degree.

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