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'138 candidates have criminal background'

By Our Special Correspondent

AHMEDABAD Dec. 6. The Association for Democratic Reforms, a non-governmental organisation formed by some prominent citizens of Gujarat, has "identified'' 138 candidates contesting the December 12 Assembly elections as having a "criminal background.''

They included 34 contesting on the BJP ticket, 28 sponsored by the Congress and the remaining 76 were either independents or were nominated by smaller non-recognised parties.

The ADR convener, S. Trilochan Sastry, a professor in the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, said the identification was "confirmed'' only after the 12-member election watch committee floated by the ADR and headed by the retired Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, Justice B.J. Diwan, went through all the records, including the affidavits filed by the candidates with the returning officers while filling nominations.

He said the list of 138 included at least five Ministers and several sitting members of the dissolved Assembly, who have been either re-nominated by the two main contesting parties or were contesting as independents.

At least nine of these candidates faced murder charges, 12 faced attempt to murder cases, 18 had cases filed against them for issuing threats to kill, three for rape and kidnapping, 26 for other criminal activities including dacoity, assault, rioting, arson and jail break and 10 for financial frauds.

Most of the tainted candidates have more than one case pending against them while several of them could be termed as habitual offenders having more than 10 cases pending.

This excluded the independents and nominees of the smaller parties which would make the situation even more alarming.

Mr. Sastry said more than 80 per cent of the information was contained in the affidavits filed by the candidates themselves and was, therefore, unquestionable while the remaining information was supplied by the voters in their respective constituencies who knew the candidates' background.This was cross-checked by the committee through other sources.

He said the ADR had received an overwhelming response from the public on its appeal to send information about the candidates with criminal background.

Of the information received about 100 such candidates contesting on the symbol of the recognised political parties, the committee, after screening, kept only 28 names since cross-checking of the other names was still pending and if found guilty, a second list would be published soon.

Interestingly, the list of 34 BJP candidates having "criminal background'' includes the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, because he had been accused by the Concerned Citizens Tribunal of making inflammatory speeches.

Mr. Diwan said inciting people for violence and spreading communal hatred was a serious offence but no charge had yet been framed against Mr Modi as under the law it required sanctions from the State or the Central Government. But the Governments were free to book suo motu cases against Mr. Modi, which unfortunately did not happen. Mr. Sastry complained of lack of co-operation from the returning officers in giving copies of the affidavits filed by the candidates though under the law it was supposed to be a public document and any voter could claim to see it before voting.

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