The Times of India

RANCHI: The State Election Commission (SEC) has decided to train electoral officers in Jharkhand, which has the history of candidates using money and muscle power to win elections, before the Lok Sabha polls.

The training, which will start this month, is aimed at stopping unethical practices. Some activists have also planned to organize awareness campaigns.

Twenty candidates in the 2009 LS polls in the state were crorepatis and 23 had criminal cases, including murder, kidnapping and dacoity, against them. But such felonies could not stop many from winning the election.

Former chief minister Madhu Koda was accused of distributing bikes among supporters. Complaints were lodged against political parties for allegedly distributing petty gifts among the electorate.

The last evidence of using money to woo voters surfaced during the 2012 Rajya Sabha election when money were recovered before the polls and the election was countermanded.

"The candidate who does not have all these (money, muscle and Maoists) can not win an election in Jharkhand. The three Ms play a crucial role," said S P Singh, head of the department of political science at Ranchi University.

" All political parties activate their agents in Maoist-hit areas to hold talks with them and finally the Maoists secretly ask villagers to support a particular candidate and avoid another," he added.

Singh said he is saying so on the basis of study and experience but he does not have any proof to support his claims.

The evidence is available with Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which has done an analysis of criminal and financial backgrounds of candidates who were in the fray in 2009 general election in Jharkhand.

ADR analyzed 172 candidates and found that 54 candidates had declared pending criminal cases against them. A total of 23 had serious criminal cases like murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, robbery, extortion etc against them.

As mauch as 50% candidates from JVM, 50% from BJP, 56% from Congress and 88% from JMM had criminal cases pending against them. JMM MP from Palamu Kameshwar Baitha, who faces over 50 criminal cases, said, "When you work for people's development such cases are bound to be lodged against you by your rivals."

ADR report said out of 172 candidates who contested 2009 general election 20 were crorepatis. A total of 33% candidates from BJP and 44% candidates from Congress were crorepatis. Surprisingly, there has been an increase of 100% in the number of crorepati MPs in 2009 LS polls from 2004 election from Jharkhand.

In 2004, there were only three crorepati MPs from Jharkhand. But in 2009, six MPs from Jharkhand were crorepatis. The candidates are BJP Godda MP Nishikant Dubey, Congress Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay, BJP Hazaribag MP Yashwant Sinha, BJP Giridih MP Ravindra Kumar Pandey, BJP Jamshedpur MP (later resigned) Arjun Munda, and independent MP from Chatra Inder Singh Namdhari.

Durga Oraon, the whistleblower who unearthed a money laundering scam involving former chief minister Madhu Koda and works against corruption, said money is widely used to influence voters here.

"I have apprehensions that a similar situation would prevail in 2014 LS polls too. I will organize massive awareness campaigns across Jharkhand against it before polls," said Oraon.

The EC is also apprehensive of such practices. Chief electoral officer, Jharkhand, P K Jajoria said: "We will start a marathon training for electoral officials to ensure no unethical practices take place during polls from February 13. Our senior authorities are also scheduled to visit Jharkhand to hold talks with concerned officers."

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