From murderers to rioters, this phase of Indian elections is awash with criminals

Image: AP Photo/Vikram Kumar
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As Indians head to the polls in the third phase of the parliamentary elections today (April 23), they will find the highest number of criminals on the ballot so far.

This includes candidates who have been criminally convicted as well as those facing criminal charges—340 of the 1,594 in the fray—according to data gathered by the Association for Democratic Reforms, a New Delhi-based non-profit, from disclosures made in candidature forms.

In the seven-phase election being held from April 11 to May 19, Indians will choose 543 members of the Indian parliament.

Most of the constituencies going to polls in the third phase are located in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra and the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka. 

Here is a list of all the politicians convicted of criminal cases contesting the elections today:

Prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC), the main opposition party, have long fielded politicians with criminal records, as have many of the smaller parties. In the last general election of 2014, a third of the winning MPs faced criminal charges.

A candidate with a criminal record “helps to weaken or counterbalance political opposition from rival groups through (actual or threatened) violence and intimidation,” says Milan Vaishnav, director of the south Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But there are also deeper reasons why criminally-tainted candidates win support from voters in the country, Vaishnav notes:

In places where the rule of law is weak and social divisions are rampant, politicians can use their criminality as a signal of their enhanced capacity and willingness to do whatever it takes to protect their supporters’ interests. This “protection” typically involves substituting for a state administration that is unable (or unwilling) to effectively and impartially fulfil its basic functions, such as guaranteeing public security, resolving disputes, and providing core public services.

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.