Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who’s who in the Maharastra Assembly Polls 2009

After the successful comeback of the United Progressive Alliance as UPA 2 for the second innings in the Central Government, the country is poised to see Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh going to the Assembly Polls on October 13, 2009. The Assembly Elections are going to prove whether the Indian National Congress (INC) in particular and the UPA in general are able to retain the popularity among the voters, especially when the country has seen enough of price rise particularly in food and sugar, unemployment owing to global downturn and political ‘tamasha’ over the recent austerity drive.

The Maharastra Assembly Polls are going to be interesting since Mumbai, its capital had been the target of terror attack during November, 2008 where over 170 persons got killed and more than 300 were injured. The trial of Ajmal Amir Kasab is still going on. The city has also seen huge loss to life and property caused by flooding on numerous occasions.

Maharastra has been undergoing agrarian crisis since a decade or so in districts of Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Gadchiroli, Gondia, Nanded, Nandurbar, Osmanabad, Wardha, Wasim and Yavatmal. Farmers’ suicides from cotton belt of Vidarbha region due to indebtedness and crop failures has become a regular feature. Five farmers committed suicide from this region within the last two days of the month of August, 2009. The recent hike in sugar prices too has made the consumers getting disenchanted with the Sharad Pawar led Agricultural Ministry. Issues surrounding displacement of tribals from forest and farmers from their land due to promotion of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) by the state government have made headlines. The state has also witnessed anti-North Indian agitations being launched by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in which workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were beaten up mercilessly and were sent back to their respective states by trains. Coupled with all this are the dynasty politics existing among all major political parties and criminal track records of the candidates who have been fielded in the recent polls.

In the forthcoming Maharastra Assembly Polls, the total number of candidates who are contesting is 3559, which is an increase of 33% over the number of candidates who contested way back in 2004. The Election Commission of India has found that there would be 7.56 crore electors in the state of Maharashtra this time. The total number of contesting parties in the Assembly Elections is 92, which is an increase of 60% over the number of contesting parties in 2004. While these figures may point to democratization of Indian polity combined with greater participation, it is important to look deeper into the backgrounds of the candidates who are contesting. The National Election Watch (NEW,, a citizen action group comprising of 1200 NGOs, which is working for poll reform, has recently done an analysis of 880 affidavits filed by contesting candidates out of the total 3559 in Maharastra. It has been found that there are criminal cases pending against 276 candidates out of 880 candidates (31%). Both Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Shiv Sena (SS) have 42 each, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has 31, and both Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) and Indian National Congress (INC) have 23 each such candidates who have criminal cases pending against them. These numbers portray the pitiable condition of electoral democracy in Maharastra as far as criminalization of politics is concerned. If candidates with such track records are elected, then law and justice would be at peril. Such persons with criminal backgrounds may manipulate the rules and regulations in order to come out clean every time when their activities are being scrutinized.

There are 212 crorepatis (24%) among the 880 candidates whose affidavits have been analysed by NEW. If criminal track record combined with money power is what makes a candidate a winner in the Assembly Elections, then it is difficult to predict who would take up the issues surrounding voters’ lives and livelihoods when it comes to democratic governance.

The total number of candidates with pending criminal records is 45 in the case of Vidarbha region. Major political parties have fielded candidates with criminal records. There are 26 “crorepatis” among 114 candidates (23%). BJP is topping the list with 53% “crorepatis” (9 out of 17). 46% of candidates (52 of 114) from Vidarbha region have not furnished PAN card details. What more do we need in a region like this which is regarded as the dark spot of agrarian despair and where farmers’ suicides is rampant.

NEW has also released an analysis of the 309 candidates of Mumbai Suburban district of Maharashtra, contesting the Vidhan Sabha elections on October 13. There are 75 candidates who used to be criminals. There are 68 “crorepatis” among 309 candidates. The BJP has deployed 12 candidates who are “crorepatis”. From the affidavit data of 470 candidates (out of total 705) from 60 constituencies from Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburb and Thane districts, we get that there are 126 candidates who used to be criminals. There are 122 “crorepatis” among 470 candidates. The point is if “crorepati” candidates with track record in crime get elected, then what kind of policies can we expect to be formulated once the government is formed. According to a new Human Development Report compiled by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 54.1 per cent of the population are slum dwellers in the city of Mumbai, which is also termed as the finance capital of India. In the year 2006-07, Mumbai had a per capita income of Rs. 65,361, twice of India's average per capita income of Rs. 29,382. Despite having the highest per capita income in India, the income of nearly 10 per cent of the population in Mumbai is not above Rs. 591.75 per month, which means Rs. 20 each day. In Mumbai, people reside in ‘chawls’-both single and multi-storeyed, single-room tenements, and many are pavement dwellers.

It is not a surprise that political parties and the civil service are perceived on average to be the most corrupt sectors around the world, as per the Global Corruption Barometer 2009 prepared by Transparency International. Many believe that information on the affidavits filed by the contesting candidates should get displayed by the electronic voting machine. This will ensure that voters push the button in favour of the right contestant after going through the track records of the candidates. Transparency and accountability in governance would prevail only when the right candidates are elected.
The main points of the study done by National Election Watch are:

1. Mumbai Suburban
a. Candidates with Criminal Records = 75
b. 68 “Karodpatis” in 309 candidates
c. Average assets value for 309 candidates = Rs. 1.52 crores

2. Mumbai and Thane
a. Candidates with Criminal Records = 126
b. 122 “Karodpatis” in 470 candidates
c. Average assets value for 470 candidates = Rs. 1.8 crores

3. Nagpur
a. Candidates with Criminal Records = 17
b. 13 “Karodpatis” in 45 candidates
c. 47% of candidates (21 of 45) have not furnished PAN card details

4. Vidarbha Region
a. Candidates with pending Criminal Records = 45
b. 26 “Karodpatis” in 114 candidates
c. 51 candidates are graduates and above
d. Average assets value for 114 candidates = Rs. 83 lacs

Further readings

Report of the Expert Group on Agricultural Indebtedness, Banking Division, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, July 2007,

National Election Watch,

Dynasty politics unite Cong, BJP in Maharashtra by Prachi Jatania / CNN-IBN,

'Bal Thackeray wants his son to become the CM',


Global Corruption Barometer 2009 prepared by Transparency International,

Every second person in Mumbai resides in slum: UNDP, The Times of India, 4 September, 2009,

Farmers’ suicides continue in Vidarbha despite relief package,