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Mafia Politics in India

“In Indian politics”, writes Dan Morrison in the NYT‘s Latitude blog, “crime pays.” In Uttar Pradesh at least, that seems to be the case. Politics there is permeated by crime; 139 of 404 legislators in the current state government face criminal charges, including murder.

Thirteen of the ruling party’s legislators are accused of murder. Others have served time for mafia-related crimes as well as rape, murder, and abduction.

Consider the story of Brijesh Singh, currently in jail in Ahmedabad. Mr. Singh allegedly ran a gang of contract killers and is charged with over forty crimes, including the murder of 13 people in 1994. He is running for a seat in the state assembly.

Or this:

The next most dreaded criminal is Om Prakash alias Munna Bajrangi. Lodged in Tihar Jail for alleged involvement in the murder of over 40 people, as well as abduction, he is a candidate of Apna Dal [a political party] from Madiyahun in Jaunpur…

He had allegedly murdered BJP [a rival party] leaders Anil Rai, in 1993, and Ramchandra Singh, in 1996. A sharp-shooter and contract killer, Bajrangi is also accused in the murder of BJP MLA Krishnand Rai and his seven bodyguards.

The worlds of politics and crime are blurred in Uttar Pradesh. Dozens of politicians are described by the Indian press as “dons.” Many have served time or operate in politics despite outstanding criminal charges. At least ten convicted politicians are running for assembly seats from jail. Prison sentences are often short, and even then convicts find a way to stay involved in politics: one of Mr. Singh’s rivals was granted “temporary parole” so he could return home in time for his political campaign. “It’s very tribal,” a veteran politician told the NYT. “People are voting for someone to protect them. Not to lead them — that’s something different. They want protection.”

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populated state. If it were its own country, it would be the fifth-most populous nation in the world, ahead of Brazil, which has thirty-five times the space. Politics here reverberates nationally. The Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh is the state’s second-biggest party and is aligned to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress Party in Delhi. Samajwadi has fielded 28 candidates in state elections who are “tainted” by crimes. It’s worth mentioning that if Samajwadi were to turn the tables on Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Bahujan Samaj Party it would strengthen the PM’s position ahead of national elections in 2014.

This, we may safely say, is not what Gandhi had in mind. India’s democracy is real, but it is also really messed up. As America’s strategic interests become ever more tightly linked up with India’s, we are going to have to get to know our new partner, and some of what we discover will be unsettling.

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  • carvaka

    you are right, indian politics is real and messy but also very young.

    and uttar pradesh is possibly the messiest one.

    you are also right that the result will have national consequence. but with immediate effect and not only around 2014.

    one of the reasons , the economic reform in india is in the back burner is one of the coalition partner in the central government is against it. samajwadi party has 28 MPs in the center but they are not part of the coalition government.
    so if samajwadi party does well in UP election and if congress also get respectable no of seats there, then there will be deals.
    congress will support SP to form government in UP and SP will support congress in center.
    and the stalled reform may very well start.

  • vijay Thilakaraj

    It is true, the very reason for this is the flow of illegal money, which takes care of all the needs of local people.

    Politicians feel comfortable to buy votes and support from public by spending this money.

    Good citizens find difficult to fight this mafia infected society.

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