The 2020 Bihar Assembly general elections are the first general elections to be held following the Supreme Court’s directions to political parties to disclose reasons for selecting candidates with declared criminal cases. Analysis of these disclosures indicates that ‘Popular’, ‘Social Work’, ‘Demanded by Workers’ are some of the reasons mentioned by Political parties.
It is results time for the Bihar assembly general elections. These are the first general elections to be held following the Supreme Court’s Judgement that directed all political parties to disclose the details of pending criminal cases against contesting candidates along with reasons for their selection in a format called the C-7 form. But what are all the reasons mentioned by political parties in choosing these candidates in their C-7? In this story we look at all the mentioned by some of the major political parties like BJP, INC, JD(U), RJD and CPI-ML which contested the Bihar elections.
What is the Supreme Court’s judgement on Criminal antecedents?
On 13 February 2020, the Supreme Court in Public Interest Foundation vs Union Of India, directed political parties to publish criminal antecedents of contesting candidates along with reasons for fielding each one of these candidates, notwithstanding their ‘winnability’. Factly had written a detailed story about this order and the expectations.
1201 or 32% of all the candidates contested who contested Bihar elections have declared criminal cases
The 2020 Bihar assembly elections witnessed a 2% increase in candidates with declared criminal cases. This increased from 30% in 2015 to 32% in 2020, according to a report published by the Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR). In terms of percentage, JD(U) is the only major party where the percentage of candidates with declared criminal cases decreased from 57% in 2015 to 49% in 2020.
Among the other major parties RJD-(98) has fielded the highest number of candidates with criminal cases against themselves followed by BJP-(76), LJP-(70) , JD(U)-(56) and INC-(45) as against 61, 95, 21, 58 and 23 respectively in 2015 Bihar assembly elections. However, these numbers could be misleading as parties contested different number of seats in both 2015 & 2020. In 2015 for instance, the BJP contested the most seats whereas it is the RJD in 2020 that is contesting the most seats among major parties.
A total of 115 candidates have declared cases related to crime against women. Out of these, 12 candidates have declared rape cases (IPC Section- 376) against themselves. 73 candidates have declared cases related to murder (IPC Section-302) and 278 candidates have declared cases related to attempt to murder (IPC Section-307) against themselves.
‘Popularity’ is the top reason for selection of the candidate with criminal cases
According to C-7 forms submitted by the major political parties (BJP, INC, JD(U), RJD, CPI-ML), ‘Popularity’ followed by ‘Social Work’ and ‘Educational Background’ are the top reasons mentioned for the selection of candidates with declared criminal cases. It has to be noted that multiple reasons are mentioned for each candidate and hence the totals for all the reasons put together would be more than the total number of candidates.
While BJP and JD(U) have mentioned ‘Social Work’ as the topmost reason, the INC, RJD and CPI-ML have mentioned ‘Educational background’, ‘Popularity’ and ‘Popularity and False case’ as the topmost reasons for the selection of candidates with criminal cases. ‘High probability of Victory’, ‘Demanded by party workers’, ‘Trivial & False cases’ are some of the other reasons mentioned by the major parties.
‘Demanded by party workers’ followed by ‘Trivial cases’, ‘High probability of Victory’, ‘Previous experience’ and ‘Popularity’ are the top 5 reasons mentioned by BJP, INC, JD(U), RJD and CPI-ML while selecting the candidates with declared criminal cases.
BJP has mentioned ‘Social Work’ as the topmost reason while INC, JD(U), RJD have mentioned ‘Demanded by party workers’, ‘Popularity’, ‘Popularity’ as the topmost reason respectively. CPI-ML has stated that ‘Candidate is the best choice’ and ‘cases are false & political in nature’ as the reasons for almost all the candidates.
Candidates with highest number of criminal cases chosen for their ‘Popularity’
Top five candidates with the highest number of criminal cases have been chosen for their ‘popularity’ and because the cases against them are false. BJP and JD(U) are the only parties which have mentioned that they have selected the candidate because of their relief work during COVID-19 pandemic. Only JD(U) has stated that they want to give an opportunity to women or minority candidates in the fray. Vague reasons like the candidate is matriculated, spouse is former public representative are few of the other reasons mentioned by parties in selecting the candidates with criminal cases
The Disclosures sound more like a formality
While the disclosure of reasons is a step in the right direction towards increasing accountability and transparency in the decision making of political parties, we may not see dramatic changes in the quality of candidates as noted by Trilochan Sastry, one of the founders of ADR, in an article in ‘The Hindu’. It is quite clear that these reasons won’t add anything to the existing pool of information available on the criminal antecedents of contesting candidates. The intention of the Supreme Court in directing such disclosures was that the political parties would be forced to think in the direction of choosing candidates with a clean record, than those with declared criminal cases. That at least doesn’t seem to have happened in the 2020 Bihar elections.