Don't vote for candidates with crime records: AEW

GUWAHATI: Assam Election Watch (AEW), a non-government poll watchdog campaigning for electoral reforms in the state, has appealed to voters not to cast their ballots for candidates with criminal antecedents.

On Thursday, the organization released a report on the 2006 assembly elections which stated that of the 126 candidates who had won, seven had criminal cases pending against their names.

"Besides, there were other candidates with criminal cases ranging from murder to kidnapping and dacoity who contested the 2006 assembly elections, but could not win," AEW coordinator Tasaduk Ariful Hussain said.

Of the seven MLAs who were charged with criminal cases, two belonged to AIUDF, one each to Congress and AGP and three were Independents, he said. "Our main demand is that anybody facing criminal cases in the court of law should not get a ticket to contest polls. Besides, all those candidates who had fought the 2006 elections despite facing criminal charges should not get another chance to be in the poll fray this time," Hussain said.

The purpose of releasing the report on the 2006 assembly elections was, he claimed, to make the voters aware about candidates with criminal cases who contested the last assembly elections.

AEW, which is part of a nationwide campaign called National Election Watch advocating reforms in democracy and governance, also sought inclusion of a button of provision "none of the above" in EVMs which will allow voters to have a choice of not casting their ballot in favour of candidates in the fray.

"We want the Election Commission of India include a button with a label none of the above' so that a voter can press it if the candidates in the fray do not suit their choice. This will allow a voter to exercise his or her voting rights. Moreover, candidates with criminal background or non-performing MLAs contesting election will be prevented from winning," Hussain said. Reacting to the recent declaration of assets by state ministers on a government website, AEW said without it (declaration of assets) was not enough without disclosing the sources of income in upholding transparency of the elected representatives.