More than a third of India’s 543 newly elected members of parliament face criminal charges, their number having risen marginally since the previous 2009 polls.
According to National Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 186 or 34 per cent of new Indian MPs are charged with crimes. The number is up from 30 per cent in 2009.
Indian law requires electoral candidates for parliamentary and provincial polls to disclose pending criminal charges against them.
Unless convicted, this does not debar candidates from contesting. But if convicted after being elected, they face dismissal.
Of the recent MPs, 21 per cent, or 112, are charged with serious criminal offences such as murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women including rape and molestation.
The victorious Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which registered a landslide victory with 282 MPs in the 543-member parliament and is on course to form the government, is the worst offender, the ADR revealed.
About 35 per cent or 98 of its MPs are battling a variety of criminal charges.
The watchdog group also disclosed that in the recently concluded polls candidates facing criminal cases had a 13 per cent chance of victory at the hustings. Aspirants with clean records had a 5 per cent chance of success.
The ADR's Jagdeep Chhokar said allegedly criminal candidates invariably had deeper pockets and a reputation for getting things done in parts of the country where the state remains weak and ineffective.
This made them more electable in India’s first-past- the-post electoral system, he said.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s prime minister designate, Narendra Modi, is finalising his cabinet before being sworn into office by Indian president Pranab Mukherjee later this week.
The BJP's rival Congress party, which recorded its worst electoral defeat on record – having ruled India for all but 13 years since independence 67 years ago – met in New Delhi yesterday evening to discuss its dismal performance.
The party, which had completed two five-year back-to-back terms since 2004, finished with just 44 of the 543 seats, securing less than 20 per cent of the vote compared with 31 per cent garnered by the BJP.
Facing corruption scandals, malgovernance, rising prices and unemployment, the Congress party drew a blank in 12 provinces.
All of Congress’s impulsive attempts at trying to better the Modi-led, high-voltage BJP campaign failed in delivering electoral dividends.
Both party chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, the Congress's campaign leader and prime-ministerial hopeful, have accepted responsibility for the defeat.
“We did not get the support that we anticipated,” Ms Gandhi said.