Ever since the Mallya fiasco, politicians across the spectrum have been demanding the disqualification of the liquor baron from the upper house of Parliament, ultimately leading to his resignation. In the latest instance of fight against graft, according to a Times of India report, the joint parliamentary committee looking at the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill, has recommended banning of those who have been declared bankrupt, to contest municipal, state or parliamentary elections. While any action by the law makers to fight graft is laudable, the latest recommendation seems to be hollow rhetoric. Going by the panel’s logic, one would have to file for bankruptcy in India which rarely anybody does. But more important, as per the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) data, at least one-fourth of those in the 30-member committee making the recommendation have criminal cases against them, with 3 having serious criminal charges. So, do they have any standing in recommending that bankrupt people should not be allowed to contest elections or hold any public post?
There were 17% candidates with criminal cases and 11% with serious criminal charges against them at the time of contesting 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the percentage doubled with those elected for the house. The situation was no better in the state assembly elections in Delhi and Bihar in 2015. In Bihar, 142 (58%) of the 243 MLAs had criminal cases against them, with 98 having serious criminal cases. Though attempt to clean the house is a step in the right direction, banning just those who are bankrupt, is symbolism at best by our netas.