The Supreme Court ruling disqualifying the convicted lawmakers—sentenced to two years of imprisonment or more—from holding offices or contesting elections is set to cast a shadow over the fate of scores of criminal-politicians in Bihar. A latest report of the National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, Indian civil society groups fighting for electoral reforms in the country, says Bihar currently has 59 per cent lawmakers with criminal antecedents indicating how much the state political scene stands vitiated.
Quite a number of politicians have criminal or corruption cases pending against them, yet they managed to stay in active politics taking advantage of the slow-paced justice delivery system in the country as the court is yet to deliver its final judgment in the case. But the latest verdict in all likelihood is set to bring a pall of gloom on their political life soon.
The latest victim of the SC ruling could be RJD chief Lalu Prasad as the CBI court is soon to deliver its judgment in a fodder scam case in which he is an accused. Although the SC has temporarily given reprieve to Mr Prasad by restraining a trial court in Ranchi from giving verdict in the fodder scam case no RC 20A/96, the trial in the case has just been completed. The trial court was to deliver its judgment later this week on 15 July when the RJD chief filed an appeal in the apex court apprehending he may not get justice as the trial judge is a close relative of Bihar education minister PK Shahi who, after losing the Maharajganj LS polls to a RJD candidate, will try to settle political scores through this case. Mr Prasad is an accused in a total of five fodder scam cases.
Like him, the JD-U’s MP from Jehanabad Jagdish Sharma too is an accused in the fodder scam case. A serious criminal case is also pending against the newly-elected RJD parliamentarian Prabhunath Singh. Apart from them, there are a number of legislators in the Bihar Assembly against whom several criminal cases are pending in the court, which means they will stand to lose the House membership the moment they are convicted. They include Mr Ranvijay Singh, Mr Manoranjan Singh alias Dhumal Singh, Mr Ajit Kumar, all from the JD-U, Mr Nityanand Rai and Mr Ashok Agrawal, both from the BJP and Mr Kedarnath Singh and Mr Tausif Alam from the RJD.
However, not all politicians are fools and they have taken “preventive” measures well in advance by fielding their wives in the election arena before the court spoils their political career. While some have succeeded, some have not but this has been described by observers as a very smart move. The first one to make this experiment was none other than former Bihar chief minister Prasad who, before going to jail in the fodder scam in 1997, had appointed his wife Rabri Devi as his successor and much to everyone's surprise, she completed two terms in office before being voted out in the February 2005 Assembly polls.
Like Mr Prasad, several other politicians facing threats to their political career too have fielded their wives in politics. The list includes Veena Devi, wife of criminal-politician Suraj Bhan Singh, Heena Sahab, wife of muscle-flexing politician Mohammad Shahabuddin, Lovely Anand, wife of Anand Mohan, Ranjit Ranjan, wife of Pappu Yadav who only recently was acquitted in the Ajit Sarkar murder case, Nitu Kumari, daughter-in-law of former minister Aditya Singh who faces serious charges like murder, kidnapping and extortion, Aruna Devi, wife of dreaded gangster Akhilesh Singh and Kunti Devi, wife of former RJD legislator Rajendra Yadav.
According to a latest report of NEW-ADR, a total of 141 legislators in the 243-member Bihar Assembly have pending criminal cases that comes to nearly 59 per cent, up by 24 per cent from the past Assembly polls. In 2005, this percentage was just 35. Of 141 MLAs, 85 face serious criminal charges like murder and attempt to murder. The JD-U and BJP have the highest number of lawmakers with criminal cases, followed by the RJD, Independents and others.