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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Analysis: India's criminal politicians

Criminal threat to India's democracy
By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

PV Narasimha Rao, is the first Indian Prime Minister to be convicted in a criminal case.

But few if any Indian politicians actually spend time in prison.

A recent study by the Indian Election Commission put the problem of crime and politics in India into stark perspective.

It said that the nexus between the two threatened every area of the nation's life.

As a newspaper report put it, the support of hardcore criminal gangs to political parties and candidates had become an unsavoury reality.

Legal failure

The Indian Election Commission has in recent years tried to tackle the problem by making it harder for candidates with criminal records to stand for election.

Laloo Yadav: Still not convicted
But the trouble is that the cases against many candidates have not been proved.

In fact, it is hard to find a single case of a politician being sent to jail for corruption in independent India.

In early October, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha, was sentenced to three years in jail, but legal observers say that she unlikely to serve her sentence in the immediate future because she can spend many years appealing to higher courts.

Likewise the former chief minister of Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav, has for many years been accused of wide-scale corruption yet has still not been convicted, even though he has been detained on several occasions for questioning.

Criminal MPs

Both Mr Yadav and Jayalalitha figured prominently in India's last general elections as did other candidates well known for their criminal activities.

MP Phoolan Devi - otherwise known as the Bandit Queen - was again elected to parliament, despite a previous conviction for banditry and possessing illegal arms.

Phoolan Devi: Elected despite a conviction
She was allowed to stand because her previous convictions were deemed by election commission officials to have lapsed.

Even so, there are still numerous outstanding cases against her.

In the last general elections held in October, it's estimated that around 1,000 candidates who were alleged to have committed a wide range of crimes stood for election.

These varied from murder, theft and rape to extortion and banditry.

The states worst affected were Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

In the state of Uttar Pradesh alone, there were several hundred candidates with alleged criminal connections.

In recent years there have been newspaper reports on a series of kidnappings in the western part of the state, allegedly carried out to meet the expenses of politicians.

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See also:

26 Feb 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Bihar's pivotal politician
25 Feb 00 | South Asia
Jayalalitha will face corruption trial
21 Feb 00 | South Asia
Net shame for corrupt officials
11 Feb 00 | South Asia
Guide to Indian state elections
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