No criminals in politics

March 25th I spoke at the No Criminals in Politics function organised at Prabhadevi. The general position on the subject is that people should not vote for candidates who have a criminal background and parties should not nominate candidates who have a criminal background. A criminal is defined as some one who has been charge sheeted in a police station.

The point I had to share with the audience was that in the past 30 days I have been hearing numerous tales from people I meet at the grassroots and people who have contested elections in the past about the huge amounts of money which is distributed in slum areas in the 24 hours before the election. 500 and 1000 rupee notes flow liberally with the intention of influencing the voter to vote for a particular party. And I have by now heard the names of almost every politician in the city, Page 3 or non-descript. All this activity is done for the MP in layers and layers away from the MP shielding him or her from any embarrassment and it would be naive to suggest that the MP does not know about it. The lure of being in power is sufficient to let the conscience conveniently over ride any discomfiture.

Now the moot point is that are there necessary and sufficient conditions for having “No criminals in Politics”? Is it sufficient that only a person should not be charge sheeted himself and it is perfectly okay if his/her party distributes money for him/her to win elections? Or that there is a grassroots army of thugs and criminals doing things by proxy? Are these stories of money flowing around baseless allegations? How do we find the truth?

I also agreed with Mr. Indur Chughani’s position that we should be saying no to parties across the country which field candidates from anywhere. Thus a Congress fielding criminals from UP should be boycotted in Mumbai also.