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India's election sees more lawmakers accused of crimes

Updated May 18, 2014

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An Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker wears a mask bearing the image of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as he celebrates with others outside the party office in Guwahati. -AFP Photo
An Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker wears a mask bearing the image of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as he celebrates with others outside the party office in Guwahati. -AFP Photo

NEW DELHI: India's next parliament will include a record number of lawmakers facing criminal charges despite campaign promises by prime minister-elect Narendra Modi to clean up government, research showed Sunday.

Modi, who pledged a clean and efficient government to help revive the slowing economy, won the general election on Friday in a landslide, securing the biggest majority by an Indian leader in 30 years.

But newly-elected lawmakers from his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are among those facing criminal charges including murder, kidnapping, robbery and inciting communal disharmony.

Research by the Association for Democratic Reforms shows 186 members of the elected lower house of parliament, 34 per cent, are facing criminal charges, compared with 158 members in the dissolved legislature.

The association, an advocate for clean government, says 21 per cent of members of the new 543-member parliament face serious criminal charges.

Four of nine lawmakers charged with murder are from the BJP, and so are 10 of 17 parliamentarians charged with attempted murder.

The organisation's research is based on affidavits which all candidates were required to file with the election commission before launching their campaigns.

The association's Jagdeep Chhokar said the increase in numbers showed parties only chose candidates based on their “winnability” at the election, not their likely contribution to good governance once elected.

“The public cannot expect that these people can contribute to good governance during their terms in office. That would be the ultimate fallacy,”Chhokar told AFP.

“If this rate continues at coming elections then eventually you will see the majority of legislators with criminal cases. It sounds ridiculous but it's true,” he said.

India has a long history of electing lawmakers with criminal cases against them, but cleaning up government was a central theme of the mammoth polls that just ended.

Voters turned against the Congress party, embroiled in a string of corruption scandals during its decade in power, in favour of Modi.

Analysts say voters have traditionally been untroubled by lawmakers facing criminal charges in a country where millions have voted along caste and religious lines in the past.

Many also believe the charges are false or trumped up and levelled by political opponents.