Man accused of lynching Muslim to contest 2019 elections
In what can be seen as a blemish on the Indian political system, Shambhulal Regar, a man accused of hacking and burning a Muslim man to death in Rajasthan, is all set to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Agra. Regar has been offered a ticket by a lesser known political outfit, the Uttar Pradesh Navnirman Sena (UPNS). Here are the details.
Shambhulal Regar hacked a Muslim man to death last year
On December 7, 2017, a Bengali migrant worker, Mohd Afrazul, was hacked to death and then burnt by Shambhulal Regar in Rajasthan's Rajsamand. If the barbaric act itself wasn't enough, Regar reportedly took a video of the incident and uploaded it on social media, warning Muslims, "Jihadists, leave our country or you will meet the same fate." Subsequently, Regar was arrested.
Regar might contest elections from jail
Following the incident, Regar's popularity skyrocketed among militant, hardline Hindus in the state. Currently lodged in Jodhpur jail, he has now been offered a ticket by the UPNS. Amit Jani, the National President of the UPNS, told News18 that the party had been in touch with him, and had offered him a ticket. UPNS claims that he has accepted the offer.
UPNS: We want only Hindutva faces to contest elections
"I am pleased to say that he has agreed to be our candidate from Agra. We want only Hindutva faces to contest elections on our party's tickets and there can be nobody better than him. We will soon make a formal announcement," Jani told News18.
Yet another instance of criminals being embraced by Indian politics
The incident marks yet another instance of Indian politics embracing criminality, a fact amply highlighted by Milan Vaishnav's book, "When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics". While there's a certain amount of corruption in politics everywhere, India's scenario is different. A significant chunk of India's politicians are not accused of white-collar crimes like corruption, but crimes like murder, rape, arson etc.
Criminality has been a feature of Indian politics since 1947
Vaishnav notes that since 1947, the Indian political system, regardless of which party is in power, has been leveraging criminals to augment or suppress voter turnouts, as the case requires. Over time, as criminals grew in power and wealth, and the Congress's influence started waning, they decided to cut out the middle man and contest elections themselves.
In 2014, 34% of India's MPs carried criminal charges
According to Vaishnav's research, a whopping 34% of India's Members of Parliament (MPs) had criminal charges against them in 2014. Meanwhile, 21% of India's MPs faced serious criminal charges like murder, kidnapping, arson etc.
Why do political parties and voters embrace criminals?
While political parties embraced criminals owing to their monetary contributions to election campaigns, and their influence at the ground level, the question of why voters still vote for these candidates is still open. Vaishnav explains that one reason why voters vote for criminals is because the rule of law in many parts of India is weak, and criminals can ensure extra-legal protection for followers.
Regar is just one among hundreds of such 'politicians'
Vaishnav also notes that for many criminal-turned-politicians in India, their criminal records become a selling point. That certainly seems to be the case in this instance, where Regar's alleged barbarism against a Muslim migrant worker is being viewed by the UPNS as a rallying call for hardline Hindus in UP. The saddest part? Regar is just one among hundreds of such 'politicians' in India.