Do India's political parties condone corruption?

India parliament Nearly a third of Indian MPs face criminal charges

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A panel reviewing India's laws on sex crimes after the fatal gang rape of a student has highlighted the problem of criminalisation of politics and asked lawmakers facing severe charges to voluntarily quit as a mark of respect to the parliament and the constitution.

Last year, India's most respected election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms informed us that nearly a third of MPs - 158 of 543 - in the parliament faced criminal charges.

New research has now thrown up more bad news.

After examining affidavits filed by candidates to the Election Commission at the time of contesting elections, the watchdog found that a third of all lawmakers at the centre and all states - or 1,448 of 4,835 - faced criminal charges.

A total of 641 declared serious criminal cases like rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, robbery and extortion, among other things.

The watchdog also found that 98 candidates facing corruption cases were given tickets by various political parties during general and state elections in the last five years. Thirty-six of them have won the polls. They include seven MPs and 29 state legislators.

All parties appear to be responsible for this disturbing state of affairs.

The Congress party, which has promised people stronger anti-corruption laws, actually gave tickets to 24 candidates facing corruption charges in general and state assembly polls in the last five years.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gave tickets to five such candidates. Six key regional parties gave away tickets to 35 such candidates.

During the last general elections alone, 15 candidates with corruption cases against them were given tickets by political parties - the Congress party awarded four such candidates.

There's more.

A total of 80 candidates facing corruption charges have been given tickets by political parties in elections to state assemblies in the last five years. Twenty-nine of them have won the elections and are currently serving as lawmakers.

The majority (eight) belong to the Congress party, and most of the winners (seven) are from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

All this makes for very depressing news. It also makes many wonder whether India's political parties can ever be serious about fighting corruption when they condone it so openly.

When will they stop giving tickets to candidates facing criminal and corruption charges? What about "fast-tracking" the cases against MPs and legislators facing these charges? The political class is totally silent on these matters.

Soutik Biswas Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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