Patna, April 20: The third phase of Lok Sabha elections in Bihar is turning out to be a battle among tainted candidates.
According to a report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) — an electoral reform advocacy group — 38 out of 108 candidates in the fray from seven parliamentary constituencies in the third phase have declared multiple criminal cases against themselves in the self-sworn affidavits submitted to the Election Commission (EC).
These 38 candidates account for 35 per cent of the total candidates in the third phase.
So, the third phase tops the chart of tainted candidates in this election, compared to 26 per cent each in the first two phases.
Interested candidates are still filing nominations for the fourth, fifth and sixth phases on April 30, May 7 and May 12.
The CPI-ML(Liberation)’s Purnea candidate, Pankaj Kumar Singh, has declared a case he is facing under Section 379 of IPC.
[An earlier version of the report erroneously said that "the CPI-ML(Liberation)’s Purnea candidate, Pankaj Kumar Singh, has declared a case he is facing under Section 373 of IPC (buying minor for purposes of prostitution)." We apologise for the error.]
The Bharat Vikas Morcha’s Bhagalpur candidate, Kumkum Singh, faces charges under Section 498 of IPC (enticing or taking away or detaining a married woman with criminal intent).
Then there is strongman-turned-politician Mohammed Taslimuddin, the RJD candidate from Araria.
Taslimuddin, who was earlier an MP from Kishanganj (2004- 2009), faces over a dozen criminal cases, including murder, kidnapping, extortion and rioting.
The Congress candidate from Kishanganj, Mohammad Asrarul Haque, faces charges under Section 147 (rioting) and Section 171H (illegal payment in connection with an election) among others.
Tainted candidates apart, over half the candidates in the third phase, 58 to be precise, are not even graduates. But going by the distribution of tickets, political parties seem to favour candidates with a criminal background than those with a proper education.
According to ADR data, one out of three Congress candidates (33 per cent), three out of seven BJP candidates (43 per cent), one out of seven (14 per cent) BSP candidates, one out of seven candidates (14 per cent) fielded by the AAP and four out of six JD(U) candidates (67 per cent) have declared they have serious criminal cases pending against themselves.
A close look at the seven constituencies in the third phase also reveals that crime always had a base in most of these constituencies.
Supaul, Araria, Kishanganj, Purnea, Katihar, Bhagalpur and Banka have been infamous over the years for trans-border or Maoist activities. Araria has hogged the limelight for child-trafficking incidents.
Purnea has been known as a hideout for terrorists coming from Pakistan, as evident from the arrest of Ghulam Rasool Khan, an Afghan immigrant, in January 2010.
Banka, on the other hand, has been notorious for Maoist activities.
Experts from ADR claim most parties do not have much of an option sometimes. They are forced to field candidates who have a criminal taint in this region to match similar candidates that the other parties are fielding.
A senior LJP leader explained this while replying to this question a couple of years ago. He famously said: “Sher ke saamne bakri to nahi khada kar sakte (Now, we can’t pit a goat against a lion).”
“The large number of such tainted candidates in the fray is alarming. The onus is on the voters to exercise their franchise responsibly,” said Rajiv Kumar, state coordinator, National Election Watch, a wing of ADR.
The parties also seem to have ignored women in the third phase of elections to Lok Sabha from Bihar.
There are just six female candidates among the 108 candidates who are in the fray.
The youth, however, seem to have been given preference, as 32 of 108 candidates in the fray fall in the age group of 31-40 years.