Patna: For a state seeking to erase the taint of corruption and lawlessness, this sure is a step backwards. Bihar, which goes to polls beginning Oct 21, will see a host of top politicians campaigning for candidates with criminal records.
Elections to the 243-seat state assembly will be held in six phases, from Oct 21 to Nov 20, with results being declared Nov 24. While political parties are preparing various strategies to lure voters, one common thread which unites them is the long list of candidates with criminal pasts.
Both regional parties and national parties have lined-up their stars to canvass for votes.
The lineup features chief minister Nitish Kumar, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) national president Sharad Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and his alliance partner Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Among the national parties, politicians who will be in the state to campaign include Congress president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi, as well as Bharatiya Janata Party`s leaders like party president Nitin Gadkari, L.K. Advani and Arun Jaitley.
Nitish Kumar, who is not only the star campaigner for his party JD-U but also the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), is seeking votes for criminal-turned-politicians like Sarfaraz Alam, Neeraj Kumar Singh and Bucchan Yadav.
The charges against the trio include extortion, kidnapping, and murder.
Alam, son of the controversial former central minister Mohammad Taslimuddin, is the JD-U candidate from Jokihat constituency. Singh is party candidate from Chatapur while Yadav is contesting from Bihariganj, which goes to polls Oct 21.
Nitish Kumar is also campaigning for Lesi Singh, wife of slain ganglord Butan Singh, who is contesting from Dhamdaha constituency. Lesi Singh is a former legislator and former chairperson of Bihar Women`s Commission.
Other tainted JD-U candidates include Bima Bharti, wife of gangster Awadesh Mandal (Rupauli constituency), Punam Devi, wife of criminal-turned-politician Ranvir Yadav (Khagaria constituency) and Annu Shukla (Lalganj constituency), wife of JD-U legislator Munna Shukla, who is currently in jail for the murder of former Bihar minister Brijbihari Prasad.
Nitish Kumar has exposed his double-face, says Communist Party of India-Marxist youth leader Gopal Prasad Sharma. "Nitish will campaign for many such candidates from his party," Sharma told IANS.
These include Manoranjan Singh alias Dhumal Singh, Sunil Pandey, and Anant Singh, regarded to be close to the chief minister.
Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP is campaigning for Damyanti Devi, wife of gangster Bhagir Yadav, in Narpatganj constituency.
He will also seek votes for criminal-turned-politician Nityanand Rai and Chitranjan Kumar, a former member from Pandav Sena, a private upper-caste militia.
Lalu and Paswan, who have formed a coalition, will canvass for candidates like Shankar Singh, Dilip Yadav, and Surendra Yadav, all with criminal records.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who will campaign for all the six phases, will campaign for candidates like Lovely Anand, wife of criminal-turned-politician Anand Mohan, and Ranjeet Ranjan, wife of former MP Rajiv Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Ajit Sarkar.
"Rahul Gandhi is coming Thursday and Sonia Gandhi will campaign Oct 18," a Congress leader said.
The list of tainted candidates who will see their party bosses canvassing for them is exhaustive.
According to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW), a group of more than 1,200 NGOs, as many as 154 candidates in the first round of polls are facing criminal charges.
Out of these, 97 have cases of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, extortion, causing hurt by dangerous weapons and dacoity against them, the report said.