The Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday, wherein persons in lawful custody whether on conviction in criminal case, or otherwise, cannot contest polls, has given much thought to the political parties in Uttar Pradesh, one of the prominent States in the country where criminalisation of politics has found a favourable clime.

The criminalisation of politics took a marked colour in the 1980s when the gram pradhan poll candidates were backed by dreaded dacoits and some politicians by the mafia in Assembly elections.

Criminal cases are pending against over a dozen legislators and former Ministers in U.P., with some of them even being charged with heinous crimes like murder, but the trials have proceeded at a slow pace.

Madhumita murder case

In recent years, only one politician — Amarmani Tripathi — has been convicted. Incarcerated in Dehradun jail, Mr. Tripathi, a former high-profile Minister, has been sentenced to life imprisonment in the poetess Madhumita Shukla murder case.

At present, Mukhtar Ansari, the Quami Ekta Dal MLA from Mau and four former Ministers, Babu Singh Kushwaha, Badshah Singh, Chandradev Ram Yadav and Ragannath Mishra, are in jail. The former Ministers held key portfolios in the Mayawati regime and were sent to jail following an inquiry conducted by the Lokayukta on charges of possessing disproportionate assets and the subsequent probe by the State Vigilance Establishment.

Corruption charge

Mr. Kushwaha and Mr. Singh, who were the Family Welfare and Labour Ministers respectively in the previous regime, were sacked by former Chief Minister Mayawati on corruption charges. Both were inducted into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prior to the 2012 Assembly elections, but even as Mr. Kushwaha quit the BJP to float the Jan Adhikar Manch, Mr. Singh stayed in the party.

Presently incarcerated in Ghaziabad jail, Mr. Kushwaha has not given up his political ambitions. The former Minister’s party has been holding regular meetings in the State and Mr. Kushwaha is reportedly in touch with another small party to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha poll from Ghazipur in Eastern U.P.

Mr. Ansari, who is lodged in Agra jail and along with his brother and former MP Afzal Ansari formed the Quami Ekta Dal before the 2012 Assembly polls, is facing trial on charges of plotting the murder of BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai. Mr. Ansari had contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Varanasi while still in jail. Reports have indicated that there is a possibility of him contesting from Varanasi again in 2014.

His name had recently cropped up in the murder of Satish Singh, a cousin of alleged mafia don of Eastern U.P. (Purvanchal) Brijesh Singh, in Dhaurahra village in Varanasi district on July 3. Brijesh Singh and Mr. Ansari are considered arch-rivals in the badlands of Purvanchal. However, the Mau MLA has been given a clean chit in Satish Singh’s murder, with the police finding no evidence of his involvement in the crime.

Vijay Mishra, the Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA from Gyanpur in Bhadohi district, an accused in the murderous attack on former Minister, Nand Gopal “Nandi” became a fugitive in the BSP regime before he was arrested and sent to jail. He was recently released on bail. Another SP MLA, Bhagwan Sharma alias Guddu Pandit (elected from Dibai in Bulandshahr district; he was earlier in the BSP) is also out on bail as is another ruling party MLA, from Gosaiganj in Faizabad district, Abhay Singh.

What is likely to compel the political parties to redraw their strategy vis-à-vis finalisation of candidates for the 2014 poll is the fact that some allegedly tainted public representatives have already found their way in the candidates’ list. The SP MLA from Bikapur, Mitrasen Yadav, was last week named the party’s candidate from Faizabad for the coming Lok Sabha election. A former Communist Party of India (CPI) MP from Faizabad, Mr. Yadav’s name was not in the original list, but SP president Mulayam Singh replaced Tilak Ram Verma with the Bikapur MLA.

According to the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR), Mr. Yadav had declared in the affidavit submitted at the time of filing his nominations in 2012, that he had 38 criminal cases lodged against him, including 14 related to murder.

According to the ADR, the other four sitting MLAs who have mentioned criminal cases registered against them are Sushil Singh (20 cases), Ramveer Singh (18 cases), Mukhtar Ansari (15 cases) and Mohammad Aleem Khan (three cases). The ADR report has said that 47 per cent of the MLAs in the State Assembly have criminal cases registered against them.