Would you vote for someone with a criminal case pending against him? Some Indians would without batting an eye.
Almost 10 percent of all the politicians contesting the first phase of India's general election face charges ranging from petty cases to attempted murder and rape.
The fact that they are allowed to contest might be mind-boggling, but not to many in India.
The three mainstream political parties – Congress, Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena – have 43 percent, 67 percent and 100 percent (all four) of their candidates with at least one criminal case against them.
Even Narendra Modi, the hardliner Hindu nationalist leader of the Indian opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is not free of allegations and is widely known as the man with a massacre on his hands.
"They are only allegations. Whether they are guilty or not has not been proved. The organizations are trying to paint a black picture about politicians. When any candidate mentions criminal cases against him, the violation of section 144, ie gathering a crowd, or unlawful assembly are also considered a crime. In a very technical language, both crimes are painted with the same brush," says Madhav Bhandari, the spokesperson for the BJP.
That may be so; but shouldn’t they be cleared of all criminal charges before being allowed to run for office?
Apparently not – in fact, it may just be the opposite. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, politicians with a criminal record are more likely to be elected than those free of charges.
The reason, you ask? Well, these corrupt individuals usually have enough illicit funds with which to buy votes.
In a recent TV show which discussed the very issue of politicians with criminal records, some mindboggling came forward, For example, voters choose candidates with more notorious criminal backgrounds due to their clout.
Apparently, those politicians with serious cases against them take great pride in their notorious status as it increases their 'market value'.
Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, a Congress leader, says, “The fundamental reason why criminals with money and muscle are able to dominate politics is because no political party has seriously pursued electoral reforms.”
BJP leader and former minister Rajeev Pratap Rudy has no qualms in admitting that,“In the absence of any checks and balances in the system, any and every petty criminal or mafia don finds it to be the most convenient route to the levers of power.”
“After 60 years of experimenting, we have realized that the system is faulty and cannot deliver (clean politics),” he adds.
"We need to build a consensus on how to prevent individuals with a criminal record from contesting elections," said Sonia Gandhi, one of India's most powerful politicians over three years ago. But that has yet to happen.
In fact, last year, the Indian cabinet issued an order overturning a Supreme Court ruling that demanded the disqualification of any politician convicted for crimes punishable with more than two years in jail.
Check Out: 5 Things Indians Are Voting For
So what makes a nation vote for alleged criminals? Maybe it’s a question best answered by them; but more than likely they have no choice - at least not in their eyes.
Perhaps real change will come when the people are able to question the choices they are given and not just vote for anyone that comes their way.