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February 20, 2017

Essay - Criminalisation of Politics

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Criminalisation of Politics

Overview
  •  Define democracy. 
  • Nexus between politics and crime. 
  • Misuse of political power. 
  • Money and muscle power should be curtailed from politics. 
  • Criminalisation of politics and the main reasons behind it.
  • Suggestions of different committees in regard of suspension of criminalisation and its application.
Democracy is said to be, for the people, by the people and of the people. In that sense, at the centre stage of democracy lies people. However, even after more than six decades since independence the lives of common people have worsened, to say the least. Democracy implies rule of law, upholding the tenets of Constitution, following the canons of moral and legal propriety. However, in all these years since independence the process of social, political and economic change has been vitiated by the way politics is being done in our country. Politics and crime have come to be associated to each other the way umbilical cord connects mother and infant.

It is such a shame that politics in the world's largest democracy has come to be associated with the cult of gun. Despite of such records and illegal participation, these people get elected to Parliaments and State Legislature and are responsible for governing and running the country.

Political power is the authority to regulate the nation through a genuine process of election. Criminalisation of politics is the penetration of criminals in the field of politics. As a result, misuse of political power takes place by the national representatives. Kautilya, a very deft political and economic philosopher has said in his seminal book Arthashashtra, "Just as it is impossible not to taste honey or poison that is at the tip of the tongue, so also it is impossible for a minister or a government servant not to eat up at least a bit of government revenue".


In any country, political power is the best means to attain social and economic change. However, in a corrupted institution, politics becomes the easiest route to achieve economic ends. Two main constituents which is the encourages the criminalisation of politics are, money power and muscle power. The show of these two powers happen during the election process. Recently, the Election Commission of India raised the expenditure limit to 70 lakh for Lok Sabha election.

However, various sources suggests in media that 70 lakh is just a tip of iceberg that a candidate spends for the election process. There are two ethical and legal issues associated with the money power. Ethical aspect is that, the candidate contesting election tries to sway vote by money power rather it should be merit based and not based on material things. The legal aspect of breaching the expenditure limit is that the candidate is not adhering to the prescribed limit set by the Election Commission. Also the money spent is ill-gotten wealth which the candidate is spending with profligacy.

The second component of criminalisation of politics is 'muscle power'. Since 1970s, use of muscle power to garner votes and influence the attitude and conduct of electorate has happened with the free use of muscleman.

In the popular culture of Indian cinema, this has been depicted with a great taste of reality. Movies like 'Gangs of Wasseypur' has depicted how money and muscle power is used to win elections. However, since 1990s it so happened that these musclemen started entering political arena instead of providing just muscle power to the candidates.

This turn in the history of Indian politics further vitiated the arena of politics. Rajni Kothari, a noted political commentator and scholar has aptly summarised the Indian politics as--`a nexus between Neta-Dada-Babu-Lala' (Politician - Muscleman - Bureaucrats - Businessmen). The worst part of money power in politics is that once the candidate is selected he or she has the first aim to get back the amount spent on the election process. Here, starts the vicious circle which has embroiled the Indian politics.

There are various reasons which leads to criminalisation of politics. The lure of power is the topmost factor why people want to enter politics. By being at the political helm, people have all the state paraphernalia at their disposal.

They tend to use all this to further their own interests, to line their own pockets and grind their own axe. As political masters are the legislators and political executives, they have a lot of power to influence policies. These attractions have led the unscrupulous elements to enter politics.

The first half of this decade saw a number of scams where a large number of politicians were involved. Corruption Perception Index 2015 has ranked India as 76th. This shows the nexus between politicians and bureaucrats. The concept of 'Committed Bureaucracy' has metamorphosis into 'Sycophant bureaucrats', dancing at the tunes of their political masters. In this process, the 'corruption of institutions' has changed into 'institutionalisation of corruption'.

The second reason for criminalisation of politics is the vote bank politics. In this process, a lot of ascriptive qualities like caste, religion, etc play a role. In order to coerce the voters to cast their votes for a particular candidate money and muscle power is used.

However, some election reforms in recent past has been a progression. Introduction of NOTA (None Of The Above) in the Electronic Voting .—. Machine (EVM) has now given a choice to voters. Also the forms ?to prescribed by Election Commission to identify the criminal antecedents of candidates is none in the right direction. This was the outcome of the Supreme Court Judgement in 2002.

In 1993, Vohra Committee was set-up to go through the phenomena of criminalisation of politics. The committee made an observation that various crime syndicates and mafia organisations have developed significant money and muscle power. They have significant government linkages, political patronage and operate with impurity. Our elections involve a lot of black money and it is this factor which has led to criminalisation of politics.

In pursuance to the above observation, in 1998, Inderjit Gupta Committee was formed. It recommended for state funding of elections. This will curb the use of money power in election process.

Therefore, misuse of state power and criminalisation of politics can be reduced and eliminated only if people participate on a larger scale in running the affairs of the state.

Power must be decentralised, rules and regulations must be transparent and there must be greater involvement of people in the government running through citizens committees, co-operatives, etc. The state must not interfere in each and every economic activity.

The representatives should be idle and they should have the qualities of a social servant. They must think and work for the welfare of the people at large in the interest of the nation. Our Constitution ensures a Socialist, Secular State and equality, fraternity among its citizens. Our country has a democratic set-up which is by the people, for the people and of the people. Gandhiji has mentioned, "Politics without principle" as one of the seven sins.

Difficult Words with Meanings :
  • Canons a fundamental principle or general rule
  • Vitiated to make legally defective or invalid
  • Umbilical of, relating to, or used at the naval
  • Cult a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites or ceremonies
  • Deft able to do something quickly; skillful
  • Sway a slow movement back and forth
  • Profligacy reckless extravagance
  • Garner to gainer, collect or hoard
  • Nexus a connected series or group
  • Embroiled to throw into confusion; complicate
  • Helm to cover
  • Paraphernalia objects that are used to do a particular activity : objects of a particular kind
  • Grind their own axe to have a strong personal opinion about something that you want people to accept and that is the reason why you do someting
  • Metamorphosis any complete change in appearance, character; circumstances etc
  • Sycophant a person who praises powerful people in order to get their approval
  • Ascriptive a group in which status is based on a factor other than achievement
  • Coerce to bring about through use of force or other forms of compulsion
  • Antecedent something that came before something else and may have influenced or caused it
  • Pursuance a carrying out of some plan, course or injunction
  • Fraternity a group of people sharing a common profession or interests
shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
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