In Hisar, an Unclear Anti-Corruption Vote

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  1. ejazr

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    In Hisar, an Unclear Anti-Corruption Vote - NYTimes.com

    By HEATHER TIMMONS

    When the district of Hisar in the state of Haryana goes to the polls on Thursday to choose a representative for the Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament, much of India will be watching.

    The normally low-key by-election, which was last decided in 2009 by about 6,000 votes, has become a stomping ground for the anti-corruption Anna Hazare camp, which is encouraging voters to avoid the Congress Party there, to pressure the central government to speed the passage of the Hazare team’s version of the Lokpal Bill.

    Hisar, though, is an unlikely battleground in the fight over clean governance, according to a recent analysis by National Election Watch, a group of academics and activists who lobby for more transparency in politics.

    Of the 15 candidates in the Hisar election that the group analyzed, using the affidavits the politicians filed themselves, eight have criminal cases pending against them, and several have amassed large amounts of wealth in recent years.

    Of the top three candidates, only the one the Hazare camp is rallying against is free of criminal charges.

    Here’s a snapshot of the top three:

    *Assets of Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of the former Haryana chief minister and the front-running candidate, who is standing for the Bharatiya Janata Party, have increased 182 percent since 2009, to nearly 49 crore, or 490 million rupees (about $10 million). Criminal charges against Bishnoi include “attempt to murder” and “voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty,” National Election Watch says.

    *Assets of Ajay Singh Chautala, from the Indian National Lok Dal party, have increased 34 percent in the past two years, to just over 40 crore, or 400 million rupees (about $8 million). Chautala has two criminal cases pending against him. Charges include “Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property,” and “Forgery for purposes of cheating.”

    *Assets of Jai Parkash, the Indian National Congress Party candidate, have increased 383 percent in the past two years, to 3.2 crore, or 32 million rupees (about $652,000). Mr. Parkash has no criminal cases pending against him.

    National Election Watch, formed by a group of academics from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, along with the Association for Democratic Reforms, has successfully lobbied in recent years for politicians standing for elections to show income taxes, and is pushing for people with pending criminal cases to be disqualified from standing for office.

    “Our intention is to get more authentic information out there, and in the process put pressure on political parties to put up better candidates for elections, which will in turn improve governance,” said founding member Jagdeep Chhokar, a former professor of management.

    Historically, politicians who were standing for elections would go to criminals to raise cash, Mr. Chhokar said, but in some cases in recent years, criminals have decided to cut out the middleman and stand for election themselves. “Law breakers are becoming law makers,” he said.
     
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