Criminals again

Criminals again

Though the political colour of the new Lok Sabha has shifted drastically with the ruling party dominating it after a long time, its social complexion has not changed positively.

There is a greater number of richer MPs in the House to be constituted than those with less wealth.

But a more dangerous portent is that about 21 per cent of the new members – more than one out of every five – have serious criminal charges against them.

These include charges like murder and crimes against women.  If the previous Lok Sabha had only 80 such MPs the new House has 112, including notorious dons like Pappu Yadav from Bihar.

They are spread across all parties.

That shows that in spite of all lip service to fighting criminalisation of politics parties did not refrain from fielding criminals.

The prospect of disqualification from membership of the House if they are convicted for their offences has also not been a deterrent for the parties.

While the need for further tightening the law can be debated, the real change has to come in the attitude of the parties.

The judiciary should take the initiative to speed up the trials so that the consequences of fielding criminal elements will become clearer to parties.

Another concern is over the representation of women, which has only marginally improved from 59 in the outgoing House to 61 now.

Only about 12 per cent of the candidates fielded by parties were women and many of them were from the families of leaders or those with glamour value.

The percentage of women in Indian legislatures is not even half of the global average. This is again in spite of the fact that all important political parties had extended support to the proposal to reserve 33 per cent of seats in the legislature for women.

But the women’s reservation bill was scuttled in the last parliament.

The government and all parties should ensure that the bill is passed by parliament, now that  parties like the Samajwadi Party which blocked it are out of reckoning in the present House.

It will be a test of the claimed commitment of the parties to women’s empowerment, especially with leaders of the three main opposition parties in the Lok Sabha being women.

The legislature should reflect and embody the best social needs and aspirations of the country. Keeping criminals away from power and improvement of women’s participation in  the country’s affairs are important social goals.