By- Sneha Khotawade, Team Anna
‘Whenever you have truth it must be given with love or the message and the messenger will be rejected’ had said Mahatma Gandhi. This is the only explanation probably why a controversy erupted when a high-pitched Arvind Kejriwal said that our parliament has murderers, rapists sitting inside. Because what he said was neither new nor false.
A report compiled by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) on Lok Sabha MPs of 2009 said in its Foreword by former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh – “The report confirms our worst suspicions. MPs with criminal records are more numerous in 2009 (162) than in 2004 (128), and so too those involved in heinous offences such as dacoity, rape and murder (76:58)” The report was in public domain since many years (can be accessed here at available here at http://www.adrindia.org/research-and-reports/lok-sabha/2009/pdf-of-national-level-analysis). This report analyses the affidavits that candidates submit to the election commission. Considering that any candidates would shy away from divulging too much in their affidavit, like everybody under-reports their election expenditure, so chances are that candidates might not be disclosing everything in their affidavit. As the number of MPs with pending criminal cases has increased, so has the number of total criminal cases pending against MPs from 430 in Lok Sabha 2004 to 522 in Lok Sabha 2009. And if you find a correlation with crime and money, then the fact that number of crorepati MPs has increased from 156 in Lok Sabha 2004 to 315 in Lok Sabha 2009 could be suggestive too.
But why do we have criminals in politics at all? Trilochan Shastri, founder of ADR and faculty at IIM Bangalore says “many times the political party itself is captured by the same elements.In other cases, they are perceived to possess ‘winnability’, which is essentially a flawed perception”
Flawed it certainly is as was apparent in 2009 Lok Sabha election that out of 608 candidates with the most serious criminal cases against them, only 76 won. The remaining 532 were rejected by the voters as per statistics by ADR. So having criminals contest, because they assure a win, trying to justify the means with the end, is a faulty argument.
Yet criminals continue to come into the fray. Sadly, the voters cannot choose who will be the contesting candidate. Voters choice is constrained by the candidates that the party decides to field. Jagdeep Chhojar says “Political parties are not internally democratic. There is a so called high command, and tickets are given by a very small group of people“
Due to this, the situation becomes so helpless for the voters sometimes that it is a case of choosing the lesser criminal out of the lot. ADR had also listed many Red Alert Constituencies for the UP assembly elections where 3 or more candidates contesting in the constituency have declared criminal cases.
One wonders that in a country of over a billion, is it too difficult to find 543 clean people? Most of the party spokesperson had said in response to Arvind Kejriwal’s comment that “Such statements make a democracy weak”. Wonder if having people with criminal cases make our democracy any stronger? While one may concede that by the virtue of being an institution, the parliament is supreme, but are we to also concede that our parliamentarians are too?
The parliamentarians claim special treatment as they are elected representatives. Jagdeep Chhokar shares that when he is on media panels with politicians, he finds it ridiculous that politicians assert that only they shall only speak for the people. “Others can also speak for people, besides those elected. And even people themselves can speak for themselves” he says categorically.
Prof Trilochan would like to see a more accountable and answerable parliament to begin with. “Even Supreme Court has contempt proceedings if a judge dishonours the court by misbehaving inside the court. There should be similar proceedings on Parliamentarians who do contempt of parliament by their deeds” feels Trilochan Shastri. He disapproves of the present situation and says “Parliamentarians are like law unto themselves and not even the Supreme Court can question them. They enjoy complete immunity for whatever they do inside the parliament, whether they throw chairs, take bribe or anything“
When common citizens like Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Om Puri had made comments on our Parliament, a prompt action taken for breach of Parliamentary privilege. The media lifted the 30 seconds of the most controversial bit when Arvind Kejriwal said our parliament is what it is, without showing at all what was being said before or after that. This video might give some context.
One wonders then, really is our parliament supreme. And for the record, Trilochan Shastri, Jagdeep Chhokkar also say “Parliament is not supreme. It is the people”