Friday, August 31, 2012

24% Guj MLAs have criminal cases pending against them

Twenty-four percent of the MLAs in the current Gujarat assembly have criminal cases pending against them, says a report prepared on the basis of the elections held in 2007. The report was released at a workshop on planning for the upcoming assembly elections in the state that was organised at AMA by Gujarat Election Watch.

Out of the total 181 MLAs from the state surveyed for the report, 24 belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and 20 to the Congress, the report says. It also gives details of the financial standing of different MLAs of the state. Talking about the document, GEW coordinator Jagdeep Chhokar said that the report had been prepared to highlight the fact that many MLAs and candidates for elections had criminal records and had assets worth crores.

“We are trying to make the people realize through the report that such candidates shouldn’t get tickets. The report would help voters make an informed choice about the candidates,” said Chhokar.

He also said that GEW would use various media such as short films, presentations and even SMSes to appeal to people not to vote against candidates who had spent a huge amount of money on their campaign. Jagdeep Chhokar is also a retired professor of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).

The workshop, which focused on the need for greater transparency in the electoral process, was attended by representatives of civil society organizations and government bodies.

In his presentation, PK Das, director general of expenditure with the Election Commission of India, said that efforts were being made to control the use of black money in polls.

National coordinator of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) Anil Bairwal said that candidates against whom criminal cases were pending shouldn’t be given tickets by parties. “We are working aggressively to find out how political parties can be pressurized not to give tickets to such candidates,” Bairwal said.

He further said that this would be the third time that ADR would be keeping an Election Watch in an election in Gujarat. “This would enable us compare the assets and properties of the MLAs and find out whose property had increased massively,” Bairwal said.

He also said that there was need to change the outdated procedure for fixing the ceiling on election expenses for candidates. Changing the format in which election expenses have to be registered, and making it mandatory for candidates to have separate bank accounts for election expenses will help in effective monitoring election expenses, he said.

Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat, Anita Karwal, also attended the workshop. She said that the use of money power is the main problem during elections. Karwal also gave a presentation on the procedure for online registration of voters.