Ahead of the 2008 Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh,BJP candidate Harendrajeet Singh alias Babbu was unsure of the number of pending criminal cases against him. So he simply wrote to the local superintendent of police and asked him.
The reply he got put the official count at 32 cases,16 of which had been closed or withdrawn. Singh had estimated 13 cases.
Singh,who went on to win from Jabalpur (West) constituency,may likely be the only legislator in the country to include the reply from the SPs office in his pre-election affidavit.
We have examined about 63,000 affidavits over the last decade but havent come across any other instance, says Manoj Kumar,a research fellow with Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR),whose National Election Watch wing is campaigning against criminalisation of politics.
As a new round of Assembly elections draws near,Singh is planning to write another letter to the SP.
The pending criminal cases dont seem to bother the legislator. I am not a lawyer,nor do I keep a diary. Its better to get all the details beforehand than be disqualified later for concealing details of pending cases, he says.
The 54-year-old may not enjoy a squeaky clean reputation,but he has not been convicted in any case. I think only two-three cases are pending but I dont want to take any chance, says Singh. He claims that most cases against him are for leading political agitations,and adds that there are occasions when one is declared absconder without the warrant being served even once.
According to the Madhya Pradesh Election Watch (MPEW),which examined the affidavits of 219 MLAs who won the 2008 elections,Singh had the most number of cases against him 16,including six serious charges for offences like use of criminal force to deter public servants,criminal intimidation and rioting,armed with deadly weapons.
As per the data,55 of the 219 legislators (11 affidavits could not be analysed because they were incomplete or illegible) faced criminal charges,including 21 of the 62 Congress MLAs and 28 of the 142 BJP MLAs.
MPEW also sent a letter to political parties asking them to deny a ticket to candidates facing criminal charges. Leave aside replying,they did not even acknowledge receiving it, says MPEW member Prashant Dubey.