Politics and Crime – the connection

Here in India, criminals stand for elections and get voted in. But why would parties give tickets to criminals, and secondly, why do ordinary people vote for criminals? Here is the answer to the first question:

…electoral democracy needs money … Criminal candidates with ill-gotten wealth make themselves available to political parties as “self-financing” candidates and promise financial rents to the party coffers, thereby liberating parties of the binding constraint.

There is another thing – these thugs also have no hesitation in using strong-arm tactics to garner votes. Any party desperate for power would prefer a candidate who can intimidate, bribe, and threaten. A law-abiding candidate would hesitate to use these tactics, and could thus lose.

Raghunath Nageswaran, in the same article quoted above, has reviewed a book by Milan Vaishnav – When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics.

Here is a quote from the book:

…where the rule of law is weakly enforced and social divisions are rampant, a candidate’s criminal reputation could be perceived as an asset…If the rule of law vacuum were solved by investing in state capacity to provide basic public goods, criminal candidates would lose their lustre

In other words, in a country where the arm of the law is weak, the criminal has the power, whether it is to build bridges or provide favours to the people. And of course, he makes money on contracts. Shamelessness reached a peak when a candidate from Agra admitted that “making money is his sole agenda for contesting the assembly polls in the state.” But why blame him? Others may feel the same, but not say it out loud.

politiciansWe are a divided democracy, with regional, casteist and religious tensions. If politicians can stoke these tensions, keep people divided, they can appease a narrow group of people whom their party believes will be their saviour in the elections. A law-abiding elected candidate would try to be fair to all, and thus could alienate all.

There is another thing. Even if a politician is not a criminal, he may need one not just to get certain “unsavoury” things done, and also stay in power. In the process, the “clean” politician gets corrupted.

And this criminal politician needs to control the police to prevent his misdeeds from coming to light. That is probably why the police reforms have not been implemented properly, reforms which would have given independence to the police.

In September 2006, the Supreme Court of India…passed a historic judgment directing the Central and State Governments towards operational reform and functional autonomy of the police…However, in effect the country has failed to use this historic opportunity for serious modernization and reform of the police.

Related Reading: Poverty and Crime – the connection
Religion and Crime – the connection
Rich People and Crime – the connection
Overpopulation and Crime – the connection
The real causes of Crime

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