By Murali Krishnan
New Delhi : Though promising to deliver good governance and provide clean administration after taking over as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh for the fourth time, Mayawati's 49-member council of ministers has at least 22 ministers who have criminal cases pending against them.
Of the 19 cabinet rank ministers sworn in Sunday, at least 10 have pending criminal cases and of these, eight have been charged with heinous crimes ranging from attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and intimidation that could attract a minimum of two years imprisonment if convicted.
"This election was fought on the issue of criminalisation of politics and Mayawati's slogan against her political opponents was 'gundon ke chhathi par button dabega haathi par' (vote for the elephant instead of the hoodlums). Now, she has to address this issue urgently," Bibhu Mohaptra, convenor of election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), told IANS.
"We have written to her to look into the criminal antecedents of her ministers and do the needful especially when she has promised to stamp out criminal elements," says Mohapatra, who has been chronicling the antecedents of criminal candidates in various elections for the last five years.
Notable among her cabinet ministers with heinous criminal charge are Swami Prasad Maurya of Dalmau, Ram Prasad Chaudhary of Captainganj, Lalji Verma of Tanda, Jagdish Naraain of Beyalsi, Daddu Prashad of Manikpur and Ramveer Upadhyay of Hathwas.
The cases against them range from rioting, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy, assaulting public servants and criminal intimidation with death threats.
Information on cabinet ministers Sudhir Goyal, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, Laxmi Narain Rai and Indrajit Saroj was not available.
Of the 31 ministers of state sworn in – information was available to ADR on only 25 – 12 have pending criminal cases against them. Eight of these ministers have been charged with heinous crimes.
Chief among them with heinous crime cases are Ram Pal Verma from Beniganj, Ratanlal from Babina and Ayodhya Prasad Pal of Haswa.
In addition, four Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislators have charges against them under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Act and they include Anand Sen, Jamuna Nisad and Shekhar Tiwari.
Another interesting finding gleaned out by ADR is that the BSP has the highest number of MLAs elected with criminal cases – 70 of the 206 elected, followed by Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party with 49 of the 97 elected, Rashtriya Janata Dal with 5 of the 10 elected, the Congress with 9 of the 22 and the Bharatiya Janata Party with 19 of the 50 elected.
"In terms of sheer numbers, the BSP has the highest number of candidates elected with criminal antecedents while in percentage terms, the Samajwadi Party tops the list."
Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy has also said that the problem in both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh is the large number of candidates with criminal antecedents fighting elections.
This time around, there was a 75 percent increase in candidates with criminal cases contesting the April-May assembly elections over the last polls in 2002.
"Because of our persistent efforts and other likeminded organisations, finally only 39 percent of the candidates with criminal backgrounds were elected, which is almost 12 percent lesser than the last election," adds Mohaptra.