Ahmedabad, Nov 24 (PTI) As many as 167 candidates, of the total 788 contesting 89 seats in the first phase of Gujarat Assembly election, are facing criminal cases, with the Aam Aadmi Party topping the list with 32 such nominees, followed by the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said on Thursday.
Of the 167 candidates with criminal cases, 100 are facing serious charges like murder or rape, it said.
With this, 21 per cent of the total candidates have criminal cases against them, while 13 per cent are facing serious charges.
The AAP, which is contesting 88 seats out of the total 89, tops the list among major political parties in the fray with 36 per cent of its candidates having criminal cases. Thirty per cent of its candidates are facing serious cases, such as murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, among others, the ADR said in its report. The number of candidates having criminal cases fielded by the AAP is 32.
Interestingly, the AAP has been campaigning on the plank of providing a clean and corruption-free government in the state.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led party is followed by the Congress, which has fielded 35 per cent of its candidates with criminal cases. Twenty per cent of such candidates are facing serious cases. The grand old party is contesting all 89 seats in the first phase and the number of candidates with criminal cases fielded by it is 31, the report said.
The ruling BJP, which is also contesting all seats in the first phase of the election, has fielded 14 candidates with criminal records. Percentagewise, such candidates account for 16 per cent of its total number and 12 per cent are facing serious charges, the ADR said in its report.
The Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), which is contesting 14 seats in the first phase, has four candidates (29 per cent) with declared criminal cases. A total seven per cent of its candidates have serious criminal cases this time.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, 15 per cent of candidates contesting in the first phase had criminal cases against them, the report said, adding that eight per cent of the candidates then had serious criminal cases.
Some candidates with serious criminal cases are Janak Talaviya (BJP) and Vasant Patel (Congress), the report said.
Of the 167 candidates from the first phase, 100 have declared serious cases against them in their affidavit submitted to the Election Commission. These include nine cases of crime against women, three cases of murder and 12 cases of attempt to murder. In 2017, there were 78 such candidates in the fray in the first phase, it added.
Some candidates with serious criminal cases are Janak Talaviya (BJP), Vasant Patel (Congress), Amardas Desani (independent). Other candidates with criminal record include Parshottam Solanki of the BJP, Ganiben Thakor and Jignesh Mevani of the Congress, Gopal Italia and Alpesh Katheriya of the AAP.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, Congress, BJP and BTP had fielded 36, 25 and 67 per cent candidates with criminal cases, respectively, in the first phase.
The ADR has also tagged 25 out of the total 89 constituencies in the first phase as "red alert" seats, or those where three or more candidates have declared criminal cases.
As per the Election Commission's directions in compliance with the Supreme Court order dated September 25, 2018, it is mandatory for all political parties to upload on its website the information on pending criminal cases and reasons for selection of such candidates.
The information is also required to be published in a local and a national daily and uploaded on official social media platforms.
"These directions are not followed properly...We have noticed that information is published in local newspapers in Gujarati, but the declarations are in English. Also, the font size of such information should be 12, but they have published details in very small font size," said Anil Verma, head of the ADR, at a press conference addressed via video link.
In its note, the report observed that the directions of the Supreme Court have "no effect on the political parties in selection of candidates in the first phase of the election as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to around 21 per cent candidates with criminal cases".
"The SC's direction on selection of candidates (with no criminal background) has not made much difference. This is not for Gujarat alone. In the past elections also the situation was the same," Verma told reporters.
He said that the reasons given by the political parties to the Election Commission as to why they select such candidates are "hilarious".
"For example, if a candidate is booked in a murder case, the party said that he is a good social worker and we did not find any other suitable candidate," he said.
"In many states we have observed that the reasons mentioned by parties for selection of such candidates are exactly the same," Verma added.
Elections to 182 seats of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly will be held in two phases - on December 1 for 89 seats and December 5 for 93 seats, while the counting of votes will be taken up on December 8. PTI KA NP NP