If there is one art some political parties and their leaders in Assam have perfected, it is to stay in glass houses and throw stones at rivals. In the latest round of mudslinging, APCC president Anjan Dutta has sounded a dire warning — that if the Congress retains power, its next government will re-open crimil cases against several BJP and AGP candidates who contested the elections this time. According to Dutta, the Tarun Gogoi government has been hitherto ‘soft’ on such cases, but no more hereafter. Perching himself on the moral high ground, the State Congress chief reeled off mes of ‘crimil’ candidates who will be a mece to the State if they enter the legislature. On top of his shame list are BJP’s Thowra candidate Kushal Duwori, along with Bitopan Saikia of Golaghat, Mril Saikia of Khumtai, Bhaskar Sarma of Margherita and Prab Kalita of Palashbari — with serious charges like murder, kidpping and extortion against their mes. Likewise, Dutta pointed out that AGP’s Amguri candidate Pradeep Hazarika has murder charges against him while oboicha candidate Jayanta Khaund is a SULFA leader. Rounding off his list, Dutta tried to jog public memory that BJP’s AGP imports Sarbanda Sonowal was one of the accused in the Saurav Bora murder case while Chandra Mohan Patowary was ‘involved’ in the deep tube-well scam. As for the Congress candidates with police cases against them, the APCC president felt those cases are ‘petty’.
Expectedly, the BJP has hit right back — beginning with Anjan Dutta himself, for being bracketed with the notorious Putul Gogoi on oil theft allegations. Sitting Borkhola MLA and Congress candidate Rumi th has been jailed on car theft charges, ministers Siddique Ahmed (Karimganj) and Akon Bora (Dispur) have been linked with murder cases, while there are serious allegations against the likes of Chandan Sarkar, Bharat rah, Dhruba Gogoi, Dulu Ahmed and Emul Haque Laskar — the saffron party has pointed out. In the midst of the pot calling the kettle black (and vice versa), major parties in the State are opening themselves to public ridicule. Be it the ruling Congress or opposition parties like the BJP, AGP, AIUDF and CPI(M) — all have given tickets to candidates with crimil cases against them. In the Assam assembly elections this year, 30 candidates in the first phase and 42 candidates in the second phase declared in their sworn affidavits to the Election Commission that they had crimil cases against them. The charges ranged from murder and kidpping to outraging the modesty of women, as revealed in alyses by the Association for Democratic Reforms and Assam Election Watch. When it comes to defending candidates and legislators with crimil backgrounds — most parties glibly dismiss such charges as ‘motivated’, supposedly filed by ruling dispensations to harass and discredit them. But impartial observers have noted how elections are coming to be increasingly funded by black money, which in turn draws in crimils to enforce shady activities and keep funds flowing. From the wings to centrestage, it is but a small step for such people to get elected themselves. The entire political establishment draws together to protect its wayward own, while keeping the Election Commission short of critical powers to keep the system clean. Crimilization has been the bane of politics for quite some time in this land, but political parties are now blasé about it. This is something only an alert civil society and courts can address in the long run through enlightened public opinion.