Everybody is stark naked in the public bathroom

Law makers are now law breakers. In the 89 assembly constituencies going to the polls on Saturday in Phase 1 of polling, there are 47 candidates with a criminal record, according to a report prepared by Karnataka Election Watch committee of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Among the major parties, the JDS has 13 candidates with a criminal record, BJP has 12 and the Congress 10. Several of them are charged with violent crime like murder, attempt to murder, assault with deadly weapons and so on.

There are 14 candidates who have declared “Very High” assets of over Rs 30 crore. Of these 7 are from the Congress, 5 are from the BJP, and 2 from the JDS. This represents a very steep increase in the number of such candidates from the 2004 assembly elections. Some have declared assets well over Rs 100 crore.

Former BJP minister R. Ashok (in picture), who is standing from Padmanabhanagar in Bangalore, has shown a jump in assets by 2604%. From assets of Rs 3,718,756 in 2004, Ashok now boasts of assets of Rs 100,581,668.

JDS has 19,Then there are candidates who have “High Assets” between Rs 5 crore and Rs 30 crore. The Congress has 21, BJP has 14 and BSP 9. In spite of having such high assets, some of them have not declared their IT PAN numbers as required by the Election Commission.

Among those who have not submitted their PAN numbers are H.D. Kumaraswamy and H.D. Revanna.

There are 33 candidates who have declared very low assets of Rs. 1 lakh or less. The SP has 12, BSP has 11, JDU has 5, Congress has 2, JDS has 2 and BJP has 1.

As many as 82 candidates reported a very steep increase in total assets between the 2004 Assembly Elections and this election. The average increase in assets was a huge 677%.

28 candidates of Congress have declared assets totalling 147.3 crore, representing a jump of 561%. 25 candidates of the JDS have declared assets of Rs 20.52 crore, representing a jump of 1292%. And 20 candidates of the BJP have declared assets of Rs 114.4 crore, representing a jump of 532%.

A total of 49 candidates with criminal records are contesting the Phase 1 elections. JDS has 13 candidates, BJP has 12 candidates, Congress has 10, BSP has 9, JDU 1, KCVP 1, and SP 1.

The three major parties have shown a decline in the percentage of candidates with criminal records. The criminal charges include murder, attempt to murder, criminal intimidation and death threats, grievous injury with deadly weapons, forgery and cheating. There are at least 8 candidates from the major parties with murder or attempt to murder cases against them.

62 candidates of the BSP have not declared their PAN numbers even though the affidavits they submit to the Returning Officers requires them to do so. The JDS has 44 such candidates, the Congress has 42, and the BJP has 40.

KEW’s conclusion: The overall quality of candidates leaves much to be desired. The criminal records in particular are a little alarming. Unless this trend is checked, elections, democracy and overall governance will suffer. A lot of candidates are industrialists from the real estate, liquor, mining and other businesses. Unless business interests are aligned to citizen interests this raises interesting questions about governance and democracy. A lot of candidates have reported huge increase in their assets. This also needs to be investigated so that public trust is restored.

(KEW is part of a nationwide movement to improve democracy. It is a citizen led non-political, non-partisan effort. This time several NGOs activists and civil society organizations in Karnataka are participating in this effort)