Monday, March 31, 2014

Law gives a wide berth to tainted netas

Times of India: Hyderabad: Monday, March 31, 2014.
Nearly 25 years ago, a young man walked into a police station in Nellore along with his supporters and vandalized government property. A case was registered against the man, who later went on to become a Member of Parliament. Since then, the case has been gathering dust and the man, Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy, has gone on to be a three-term MP who is gearing up again for an electoral battle as the YSR Congress candidate from the Nellore Lok Sabha constituency.
Despite the passage of 25 years, the law has not caught up with Rajamohan Reddy, facilitating his repeated electoral forays since 1989, when the incident allegedly happened. However, Rajamohan Reddy's case is not an isolated one. Several sitting MLAs and MPs, who have been involved in criminal cases, have been treated with kids' gloves.
In fact, several top leaders who are now star campaigners and electoral contenders of their parties are facing serious charges, which if proved, could land them in jail or death row. Take for instance, TV Rama Rao, Telugu Desam Party's Kovvur MLA, who was accused of raping and killing a nursing student. Five years since the incident, the case is pending in court.
Similarly, TDP's Gurajala MLA Y Sreenivasa Rao, Kadiri MLA K Venkat Prasad and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) floor leader Abkaruddin Owaisi are facing murder charges. The case against Venkat Prasad was registered way back in 2006, but it is still pending trial. Several politicians have been booked for rioting, assault and more, but are walking free as the cases were either declared as pending trial or under investigation.
In all, 54 incumbent MLAs and eight MPs from the state are facing charges of various nature. All of them are in the fray for the 2014 elections. Some of the prominent faces with skeletons in their closet include Konidela Shiva Shankar Vara Prasad alias Chiranjeevi, a Rajya Sabha member and till recently the Union minister of state for tourism. According to the police, Chiranjeevi, the Congress star campaigner in Seemandhra, entered police records almost five years ago for conducting two road shows without permission in Nandyala and Baudi Atmakur.
Of the Lok Sabha members, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K Chandrasekhar Rao has 17 cases to his credit, only to be followed by MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi with 10 cases. The information accessed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows that though the MIM has only a handful of MLAs (7), they are involved in 39 cases among them. The Congress party, which secured 156 seats in the 2009 hustings, has 40 cases pending against its MLAs. Similarly, TDP candidates are facing 83 cases and TRS 57 cases.
"Recently, the Election Commission moved a proposal to bar the candidates who are facing charges which attract more than three years punishment, from contesting the election. However, there was severe resistance from political parties. But that proposal has to be accepted by the government. The cases are just kept pending either for trial or for investigation," M Padmanabha Reddy, secretary, Forum For Good Governance told TOI.