A day after Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that more than half of lawmakers in Lok Sabha have criminal cases against them, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) summoned Singapore's envoy- Simon Wong - to India.
Several media reports noted that India has conveyed to Singapore's envoy that the "remarks by the Prime Minister of Singapore were uncalled for".
This comes at a time when there have been close ties between the top political leadership and it has been well established that Singapore is a key strategic partner for India.
Incidentally, the Election Commission of India's data on Lok Sabha MPs with criminal backgrounds supports the Singaporean leader's remark.
What Triggered The Singapore-India Row?
The PM of Singapore had invoked India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru while arguing how democracy should work in the city-state. The remarks came during a passionate debate in the Singapore Parliament on Tuesday.
"Nehru's India has become one where, according to media reports, almost half the MPs in the Lok Sabha have criminal charges pending against them, including charges of rape and murder. Though it is also said that many of these allegations are politically motivated," Prime Minister Lee had said.
Lee went on to say that with passing time, there is a gradual change of the core values in a democracy.
How Many Lok Sabha MPs Have Criminal Cases Against Them?
Although, India has expressed their displeasure over the comments, a study of criminal records of Lok Sabha MPs done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in 2019 backs PM Lee's claims.
The study found that the number of elected Lok Sabha MPs with criminal cases and serious criminal cases have increased over the past three Lok Sabha elections. This study was based on affidavits submitted by candidates to the Election Commission of India.
43 per cent or 233 out of 539 elected Lok Sabha MPs had at least one criminal case against them. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 34 per cent of MPs had a criminal case while 30 per cent of 2009 Lok Sabha MPs had a criminal case against them.
14 per cent of 2009 Lok Sabha MPs had declared serious criminal cases with the number rising to 21 per cent and 29 per cent in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections respectively.
The number of MPs with serious criminal cases against them has also increased over the past three elections.
ADR defines serious criminal cases as those which fulfil the following criteria.
1. Offence for which maximum punishment is of 5 years or more.
2. If an offence is non-bailable
3. If it is an electoral offence (for eg. IPC 171E or bribery)
4. Offence related to loss to exchequer
5. Offences that are assault, murder, kidnap, rape related
6. Offences that are mentioned in Representation of the People Act (Section 8)
7. Offences under Prevention of Corruption Act
8. Crimes against women
The BJP has the most number of MPs with criminal and serious criminal cases against them. Out of 301 BJP MPs, 116 MPs have criminal cases filed against them while 87 MPs have serious criminal cases filed against them.
Out of 51 Congress Lok Sabha MPs analysed, 29 MPs have criminal cases filed against them while 19 MPs have serious criminal cases filed against them.
Fifty per cent of Lok Sabha MPs with criminal cases filed against them belong to the BJP while 55 per cent of Lok Sabha MPs with serious criminal cases belong to the BJP.
What Did The Singapore PM Say?
"Most countries are founded and start off on the basis of high ideals and noble values. But more often than not, beyond the founding leaders and the pioneer generation, over decades and generations, gradually things change," the Singapore PM had said in the Parliament on Tuesday.
"Things start off with passionate intensity. The leaders, who fought for and won independence, are often exceptional individuals of great courage, immense culture, and outstanding ability. They came through the crucible of fire and emerged as leaders of men and nations. They are the David Ben-Gurions, the Jawaharlal Nehrus, and we have our own too," Lee said during the debate on the Committee of Privileges' report on complaints about untruths told by former Workers' Party lawmaker Raeesah Khan.
The texture of politics changes, respect for politicians declines, he said. "After a while, the electorate comes to think this is the norm, and you cannot expect better. So, standards get debased, trust is eroded, and the country declines further," the Singapore prime minister said.
Watch the speech here:
How Did India React?
However, the Singapore PM's remarks did not sit well with the government in India. "The remarks by the Prime Minister of Singapore were uncalled for. We are taking up the matter with the Singaporean side," NDTV quoted government sources on Thursday. Meanwhile, the ministry of external affairs also summoned the Singapore High Commissioner to conveyed its objection on PM Lee's remarks.
Former union minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh shared a video clip of Loong's speech in the Parliament where he spoke about Nehru. "Singapore PM invokes Nehru to argue how democracy should work during a parliamentary debate whereas our PM denigrates Nehru all the time inside and outside Parliament," Ramesh wrote.
"Singapore's PM speaks highly of Nehru ji & his efforts to build democracy and institutions in a new republic," Leader of the Opposition, Mallikarjun Kharge, wrote, reacting to Lee's speech.
In 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on a visit to Singapore, it was considered to be a key country in New Delhi's 'Act East Policy'. Both leaders had even bonded over a 'dosa meal' in 2015, even as they discussed ways to boost bilateral ties.
Modi and Lee had last met in October 2021 on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome.
Updated On: 2022-02-18T15:52:22+05:30