Report No. 244
(iii) Lack of adequate deterrence
Given the low levels of convictions of MPs and MLAs, and the lack of consequences for pending criminal charges, political parties are not deterred from continuing to hand out party tickets to persons with criminal backgrounds. In fact, as pointed out earlier, data suggests that a criminal background, rather than being a disadvantage for a political career, seems to operate as a benefit.
One researcher, having analysed available affidavit data, has come to the conclusion that candidates charged with a crime have a 2:1 chance of winning the election over candidates with no criminal backgrounds.48 This means that political parties liberally and repeatedly hand out tickets to criminally charged candidate.- 74% of candidates with criminal background have re-contested elections in the last ten years.49
48. Milan Vaishnav, (n.7).
49. Association for Democratic Reforms (n.11).
The explanation for the success of criminally tainted candidates in elections lies in their financial assets as discussed earlier in Chapter IV. To briefly recapitulate, there is a strong positive correlation between a candidate's criminal status and his level of wealth.50 While an average legislator's wealth stands at Rs. 3.83 crores, it rises to Rs. 4.30 crores for candidates with criminal backgrounds and to Rs. 4.38 crores for candidates with serious criminal backgrounds.51
Wealthier candidates, particularly those able to raise more assets, can fund their own elections and raise further capital for the political party in question. Candidates with criminal backgrounds fit well into this profile, as they can raise funds through various illegal means that are then funnelled into politics and elections. It thus appears that the soaring cost of elections, opaque processes of candidate selection, and the ability of criminal elements to raise and provide funding are the major reasons for the widespread and persistent connections between crime and politics.
50. Milan Vaishnav, (n.7).
51. Association for Democratic Reforms, (n.11).
It is clear from this data that, the way the law currently operates poses little threat to political parties wishing to give tickets to tainted persons. On the contrary, the current situation actually incentivizes political parties to increase among their ranks persons with criminal backgrounds, because of their financial muscle. Therefore, a reduction in the prevalence of crime in politics will not take place unless the law is changed such that political parties face a disincentive when they foster persons of criminal backgrounds within the party.