A total of 167 candidates, out of the 788 contesting the 89 seats in the first phase of Gujarat Assembly election, have criminal cases against them, with 100 of them facing serious charges like murder and rape, a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said on Thursday.
With this, 21% of the candidates in fray have criminal cases against them, while 13% are facing serious charges.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is contesting 88 seats out of the total 89, tops this list among major political parties in the fray with 36% of its candidates having criminal cases. 30% 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.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led party is followed by the Congress, which has fielded 35% of its candidates with criminal cases. 20% 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% 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%) with declared criminal cases. A total 7% of its candidates have serious criminal cases this time.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, 15% of candidates contesting in the first phase had criminal cases against them, the report said, adding that 8% 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% 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% 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," Mr. 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," Mr. Verma added.