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HomeIndiaBan criminals from politics: Cop-turned-BJP candidate Rajeshwar Singh’s poll pitch in Lucknow

Ban criminals from politics: Cop-turned-BJP candidate Rajeshwar Singh’s poll pitch in Lucknow

ED’s ex-joint director wants to 'clean up system', blames SP for criminalising politics. SP petitions EC for his wife Laxmi Singh’s transfer from Lucknow, where she's an IG.

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Lucknow: An “encounter cop”, an investigator of high-profile scams, a reel life hero in the 2011 film Kya Yahi Sach Hai, former Enforcement Directorate (ED) joint director Rajeshwar Singh is playing his new role almost with perfection — a BJP politician who is contesting the 2022 Uttar Pradesh polls from capital Lucknow’s Sarojini Nagar constituency.

His main plank in the election: A promise to bring a law to ban criminals from politics.

The rival Samajwadi Party (SP) has turned up the heat on him, writing to the Election Commission (EC) repeatedly and demanding the transfer of Rajeshwar’s wife Laxmi Singh, who is the Inspector General (IG) of Lucknow Range, alleging that she was forcing people to vote for her husband.

Pointing to Rajeshwar’s experience in the police and ED, the SP also describes him as a “bahari” (outsider) in Lucknow.

But the former ED joint director makes it a point to start most of his speeches describing his association with Lucknow, and goes on to talk about decriminalising politics. He also peppers his speeches with references to Pakistan, “terrorism”, and “appeasement” by the SP.

“I was born in Lucknow, studied at Colvin (Taluqdars’) College here, joined IIT-Dhanbad and after selection in the police force, served at various positions in the city — as CO (traffic), CO (crime) and CO (Gomti Nagar),” he tells a gathering in the Vishnulok Colony of Sarojini Nagar.

“I led several encounters and got the President’s award and served in the Enforcement Directorate as joint director for 13 years, during which I investigated important cases like the 2G scam, riverfront scam, etc. I was quite satisfied. But then, I had this feeling that I should help in formulating a law to ensure a ban on entry of criminals into politics,” he adds.

Also read: Ex-ED officer Rajeshwar Singh: How ‘master networker, sleuth’, once a suspect, got BJP ticket

Perfecting the BJP poll pitch

The way Rajeshwar Singh links up his main poll plank with the BJP’s overall campaign is through accusing the Samajwadi Party of the politics of “criminalisation” and “appeasement”.

Referring to his police background while explaining his pitch for decriminalising politics in Sarojini Nagar’s Hind Nagar this Monday, he says “I felt that given my experience of law and its execution, I should help in formulating good laws”.

But then he goes on to add: “I saw that the SP has a mentality to bring criminals and mafia into politics, whether it is Atiq Ahmed, Mukhtar Ansari or Azam Khan, and their kin are getting tickets. This is not good for the state and the youth.”

Moving on to “appeasement politics”, he says SP leaders “do not consider Pakistan an enemy” — referring to SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s recent interview in which he said “our real enemy is China, Pakistan is our political enemy”.

“Pakistan attacked India four times and thousands of soldiers died for our sake, but this mentality does not consider Pakistan an enemy. This school of thought is not good for the state. Yeh vichardhara tushtikaran ki vichardhara hai (this mentality is of appeasement),” he says.

He alleges that this “school of thought supports dropping cases against terrorists and, had the high court and SC not been there, those behind the blasts at Sankat Mochan Mandir in Varanasi (2006) and Kachehri in Lucknow (2007) would have gone scot free”.

“The SP wrote a letter saying that the ban on an organisation like the SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), which says that it does not believe in nationalism and democracy, should be lifted. These parties are not right for our country and future generations. I have vowed and so should you, that parties with such a thought process that brings criminals into politics and talks on communal lines should be uprooted from Uttar Pradesh on 23 February (voting day in Sarojini Nagar),” the former ED joint director says.

Commenting on Rajeshwar’s allegations against the SP, SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary told ThePrint that the BJP was continuing to rake up non-issues. “This is an election for UP but the BJP continues to rake up non-issues. The BJP is betraying the public,” he claimed.

Criminalisation issue flagged multiple times by SC

Criminalisation of politics is an issue which the Supreme Court has talked about in several judgements and which has found mention in several petitions before it.

Hearing a bunch of pleas, the court had in 2018 refused to ban politicians with criminal cases from contesting elections, but pointed out that it was time that Parliament enacted laws to ensure that those facing criminal cases do not enter politics.

In February 2020, while ruling on a contempt petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay against the central government and the Election Commission alleging that no serious efforts were made in six months despite a court order to stop the criminalisation of politics, the SC had ordered that political parties publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for assembly and Lok Sabha elections on their websites, along with the reasons behind fielding suspected criminals over “decent people”.

“It appears that over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics. In 2004, 24 per cent of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30 per cent; in 2014 to 34 per cent; and in 2019 as many as 43 per cent of MPs had criminal cases pending against them,” the court had noted.

In July 2021, the SC remarked that the legislature was “not likely to do anything” to prevent criminals from standing for elections, and in August last year, it directed that political parties must publish the criminal antecedents of candidates within 48 hours of their selection.

According to the election watch programme carried out by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), as many as 438 of 1,822 candidates in the fray in the first three phases of UP elections 2022 are facing criminal charges, while 337 are facing serious charges like murder, rape and attempt to rape, etc.

Also read: Switched from khaki to khadi to serve people better, says ex-officer

SP approaches EC 4 times in 2 weeks against Rajeshwar’s wife

As Rajeshwar Singh takes aim at the SP, the Akhilesh Yadav-led party has approached the Election Commission four times in less than two weeks demanding that his wife be transferred from Lucknow. While one complaint was made on 7 February, the SP has since sent three reminders to the poll panel on the subject.

The party has argued that to hold a “free, fair and unbiased election”, Laxmi Singh should be removed from her IG post since she was “pressuring police officers and voters to vote for her husband, Rajeshwar Singh”.

Answering a query on the matter while releasing the party’s manifesto last week, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav questioned the role of EC officials. Monday, the SP issued a statement raising questions on the impartiality of the poll process, since no action was being taken by the EC, despite a complaint and three reminders.

“(The party’s UP chief) Naresh Uttam Patel has said that in the West Bengal elections, the IPS officer who was serving as SP (rural) Howrah (Saumya Roy) was transferred from his post when his wife got a ticket in March 2021,” the SP statement read.

The EC had then said that the transfer was based on the general principle that “close relatives of active public representatives may not be assigned such duties during elections, which may create any perception of biases/partiality”.

“We can only make a complaint. They are not removing the officer despite four complaints,” reiterated SP’s Chaudhary.

But responding to the demands for his wife’s transfer, Rajeshwar said the SP was afraid of a woman and that it was “embarrassing”.

Speaking to ThePrint, a senior EC official said the SP’s complaint has been referred to the EC office in New Delhi.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: What do UP voters want? This is what they told me about cow, Covid, Kashi

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