Over half of elected lawmakers in India's largest state accused of serious crimes

Over half of elected lawmakers in India's largest state accused of serious crimes
Five of the winners in Uttar Pradesh's election have been accused of murder, 29 accused of attempted murder, and six others have pending cases against them related to rape and crimes against women.
3 min read
16 March, 2022
An increasing number accused criminals have been involved in Indian politics [Getty File Image]

More than half of the newly elected legislators in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state by population, have criminal cases against them, according to reports. 

The recent state election that concluded earlier this month was won by Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP.

A report by the Association for Democratic Reforms revealed 205 out of the 403 elected officials have been taken to court on criminal charges.

One-hundred-and fifty-eight of these have declared they have serious criminal cases against them, including cases related to murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women.

Five of the winners have been accused of murder, 29 accused of attemptef murder, and six others have cases related to rape and other crimes against women.

These numbers are much higher than those from the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election when 143 out of 403 elected officials had criminal charges against them and signals an alarming trend in Indian politics.

The number of candidates with criminal charges in both national and state elections has been rising since 2018 when it became mandatory for candidates to disclose any charges against them. 

Both the major parties, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party, have said that they are against the entry of accused criminals into politics.

A BJP spokesperson said his party had provided "clean governance" in power during the last five years, while a Samajwadi Party spokesperson said the national government should introduce a law to "cleanse politics".

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However, Niranjan Sahoo, an expert in governance and public policy at the Observer Research Foundation in India, disagreed with the two parties.

"The political economy want to continue with this kind of criminality in politics and the political parties profit from this," he told The New Arab, adding that this is a problem across India and not just in Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of over 200 million.

"These candidates with criminal backgrounds have a bigger chance of winning because they are local influential people, caste leaders, or have pockets of influence," he said.

"At the same time, these candidates have access to the most money. These two criteria are essential in the selection of these candidates by the political parties - they don’t need to do much work to promote them."

Yogi Adityanath, the firebrand Hindu monk who was re-elected as chief minister of the state reportedly had dozens of criminal cases against him when he first took power in 2017.

"The first thing he did when he became chief minister was to ensure all of the cases were withdrawn," said Sahoo. "So what happens to fairness and due process?"

Adityanath is known for his anti-Muslim statements and has repeatedly pushed divisive policies to alienate the state's Muslim population.

An ardent Hindu nationalist, his victory is a major blow for Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and in part of a larger Islamophobic right-wing trend propagated by Narendra Modi's BJP.