New Delhi: Nearly 70 per cent of MLAs in Bihar’s newly elected assembly have criminal charges against their names, ranging from murder and attempt to murder to kidnapping and crime against women.
According to data analysed by non-partisan NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), about 68 per cent of MLAs — 163 in all — stand accused of criminal acts, which is 10 per cent more than the ratio in the outgoing assembly. The ADR has analysed 241 of the 243 MLAs because the affidavits submitted by two of them to the Election Commission are unclear.
Of the 163 MLAs with criminal charges, 123, or half the total MLAs, have been booked for serious offences — 19 have been charged for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, while 31 MLAs are accused of attempt to murder, and eight have cases against them relating to crime against women.
The Bihar election was the first since the Supreme Court told political parties in February to publish the details of their candidates with criminal allegations, and the reasons why they were given tickets.
No party is immune
The single largest party, RJD, has 54 alleged criminal MLAs out of 74 (73 per cent), while the BJP has 47 such MLAs out of 73 (64 per cent).
Data scrutinised by the non-partisan NGO showed that 54 RJD MLAs out of 74 have been charged with criminal acts, while the BJP’s count is 47 out of 73. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party and BJP ally JD(U) has 20 such MLAs out of 43, while the figure for RJD’s Mahagathbandhan ally Congress is a whopping 18 out of 19. All five MLAs of the All India Majlis-e-Ittihadul Muslimeen have criminal charges against them.
The most prominent MLA on this list is Anant Singh, popularly known as ‘Chhote Sarkar’ in his constituency Mokama. Singh won the election from jail, where he is lodged on the charge of possessing an AK-47 rifle and explosives at his home. Singh has 38 criminal charges against him, including seven for murder, and is widely acknowledged as a don.
He was once favoured by CM Nitish, and fought four elections for the JD(U). However, they fell out ahead of the 2015 assembly polls, in which the JD(U) had allied with its arch-rival, the RJD. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party raised the issue of the murder of a Yadav youth, allegedly by Anant Singh, and when the two parties formed the government, Singh was arrested for the murder, but released on bail.
In the interim, he fought and won from Mokama as an Independent. Ironically, this time he has fought and won on an RJD ticket.
Another notorious MLA elected this time is Ritlal Yadav, an MLC who was released from jail only recently. Yadav, the RJD MLA from Danapur, has been accused of land grab, extortion and attempt to murder, among other crimes, but is considered so influential that Lalu once visited him in jail to ensure victory of his daughter Misa Bharti in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Pataliputra. For the record, she lost.
Meanwhile, Mahboob Alam, the CPI (ML-Liberation) MLA from Katihar’s Balrampur seat, has 28 cases against his name, and is second on the list after Anant Singh in terms of the number of cases. Charges against Alam include those of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and extortion. His name even figured a case of prostitution racket.
D.M. Diwakar, director of Patna’s A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies, told ThePrint that political parties turn to these strongmen because they hold considerable sway in their areas.
“These dons hold influence in their areas, as a few of them do a lot of social service like conducting mass marriages. They are like the modern-day Robin Hoods,” Diwakar said. “Every political party takes their help in winning seats.”
Jump in crorepati MLAs
The number of MLAs with property worth over Rs 1 crore has also gone up in the new assembly — there are now 194 crorepati MLAs compared to 162 in the outgoing assembly. This means that 81 per cent of MLAs are crorepatis, up from the earlier 67 per cent.
One-fourth of candidates have assets worth above Rs 5 crore, while 36 per cent have assets worth Rs 2 to 5 crore.
Bihar has lowest per capita income in India — in 2018-19, the state’s figure stood at Rs 43,822, as against the national average of Rs 1,26,406, according to central government data.
Party-wise, the BJP leads this list with 89 per cent crorepati MLAs (65 out of 73), while the JD(U) has 88 per cent and the RJD 87 per cent.
Anant Singh tops this list too, with Rs 68 crore worth of declared assets, followed by Congress’ Ajit Sharma, who has assets of Rs 43 crore. RJD’s Vibha Devi is No.3, with Rs 29 crore. Six of the top 10 candidates are from the RJD.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the RJD also has the poorest winning candidate — Ramvriksh Sada from Alauli — who only has assets worth Rs 70,000.
ADR chairman Trilochan Sastry added: “In Bihar, this trend of muscleman and money power is increasing in every election. Surprisingly, for a state which has no industry, where income is low, candidates’ assets are rising… (and) criminalisation of politics is expanding.”