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Why criminals continue to win Indian elections

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In the recently held 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 233 MPs or 43% of 539 elected members have criminal charges against them. The percentage increased from that of 34% in 2014. (The Hindu, 2019) Despite proliferating information about the criminality of the candidates among the public, the proportion of candidates with criminal charges continues to increase after every election. (Vaishnav 2017) This research paper will analyze that it is not due to lack of information, but the muscle power which makes them ideal and gives them an edge over the other candidates. It will also analyze how identity and solitarist perspective, or to say Groupism, helps in garnering support to the candidates with criminal charges. But first, we need to answer why criminals are allowed by the political parties to contest an election on their tickets despite their criminal charges.


In the age of industrialization, elections become merely the game of the campaign. A Forceful campaign helps in building the image of the political party and also attracts voters. (Business Today, 2014) 2014 election results demonstrate how BJP gets the fruits of the successful campaign. (Business Today, 2014) However, campaigning and the internal functioning of the political parties require funds. Criminals help in fulfilling both the needs. They can afford election related-expenses from their own pockets along with a generous contribution to parties as well. Additionally, criminals come up with higher winning chances compare to non-criminal candidates (which we will discuss in the upcoming sections). (Economic Times, 2019) The funding mechanism along with higher winning chances keeps parties motivated to select a candidate with a criminal background. Consequently, criminals are not only provided with a platform to contest elections but also support and backing from parties. (The Hindu, 2020)


Democracy guarantees various rights and justice delivering mechanisms to the public. However, it is infamously known for its lack in the implementations of the intended benefits due to the red-tapeism, thereby losing hope amongst the people. (BBC, 2017)

What if people get a representative who could fulfill these loopholes, by ensuring basic rights and timely justices? These are the criminals who have local dominance and who can help the public in ensuring their rights either through a command or sometimes through their own deep pockets. (Vaishnav 2017: 165-176) Once, a voter in the press told that he had given his vote to Mukhtar Ansari, infamous criminal of UP, just because he helped him in getting his money back, which the local administration failed in. (Hindustan Times, 2017) These powers become fourfold when they have the legal authority to help people after being elected. Human beings act rationally and mostly try to fulfill their personal needs to seek maximum satisfaction. (Steele 2004) They believe that electing criminals as their representatives will help them in providing quick and trouble-free justice. (Hindustan Times, 2017) They have their personal incentives. A criminal background of the candidate positively affects their decision-making. Voters may find their criminality beneficial and take their criminality as an asset, which a non-criminal candidate might not provide after being elected. Thus, satisfying local people’s needs and rights and ensuring them timely justices, criminals have an edge over non-criminal candidates. (Vaishnav 2017) 


Criminals successfully gained support from individuals providing them personal satisfaction. However, by touching upon some fragile conceptions, which are prevalent in society, a criminal candidate can garner major support from the groups of people as well. In Durkheim’s organic solidarity societies, people are divided into various ethnicity based on their traditions and culture and their views differ from other groups. (Raymond 1967) Ethnicity can be based on caste, religion, and language. These groups have their separate concerns and mostly they want to cherish their tradition. These differences may not act as a scuffle between two groups, but politicians turn them on for their personal sake. (Vaishnav 2017: 175)

Ethnicity forces people to push their views through a strong leader. Criminal candidates with their muscle power, forceful campaign, and power to influence act as a representing figure for their respective groups. The criminality of the candidate acts positively if it is representing and supporting the views of that particular group. A criminal candidate belonging to the ethnic group gets support from his own group as it wanted to ensure its ethnicity at a level above others.  (Vaishnav 2017)

Ethnic groups can broadly be divided into the dominant groups or the minority groups of the area. (Raymond 1967) Criminal candidates representing the dominant group get support for ensuring their dominancy in their area. To remain in power, continuous privileges, and to be dominant- steady representation is necessary. For the minority or say, under-represented ethnic group, representation becomes necessary to ensure their survival. To get their basic rights, to come at par with the other groups- the substantial thing that matters for them is to get adequately represented with a strong leader. Due to the quotas of seats in Indian elections, the candidates who can represent a reserved community forcefully get support from the community and mostly, these are the dominant persons of their own community. (Vaishnav 2017: 215-235) 

For both the groups, what matters the most is how they could sustain their ethnic views. One group wanted to ensure one’s undeviating, consistent dominancy and the other wanted their adequate representation. In fulfilling demands for both the groups, the criminal background of the candidate helps as he has the dominancy in the area to support the views of both the groups adequately. They have more power compare to the non-criminal candidates in sustaining and ensuring the rights of that group.   

It can be concluded that it is not the lack of information among the general public which helps criminals in winning the elections. But the intended motives of individuals as well as different ethnic groups, which helps criminals to take advantage of their criminality by fulfilling the societal demands. Or intentionally unfolding their criminality and simultaneously ensuring the general public’s demand and providing a sense of relief to the respective ethnic group. The criminal background of the candidate makes him an ideal candidate over a non-criminal one for both, political parties and the general public. Thus, it helps criminal candidates winning elections and eventually it leads to an increasing proportion of the criminals in the legislature.

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