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National - Elections 2004 Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Many candidates with criminal past in Gujarat poll fray

Garimella Subramaniam

Chennai

Over 50 per cent of the poll nominees of the BJP and the Congress in Gujarat possess high value assets. Twenty-five per cent of them also have a criminal record. These are some of the findings of an NGO report about the candidates in the fray for the Lok Sabha polls.

The Gujarat Election Watch (2004) Committee, an independent initiative supported by the Association for Democratic Reforms, has compiled the report. The panel comprises retired chief justices of the High Courts, former administrative and police officials, social workers, human rights activists and academics. The basis of these findings is the educational, financial and criminal background information, which candidates have furnished in their affidavits to the Election Commission.

Chhotubhai A. Vasava of the Janata Dal (U) contesting the Bharuch constituency, has the highest number of criminal cases — 21 — pending against him. He is followed by Vitthalbhai H. Radadia of the Congress, from the Porbandar constituency, with 14 criminal cases. Twenty-six candidates have declared that they are in the midst of criminal proceedings at the time of filing nominations. This works out to 16.05 per cent of the 162 contestants in the State. But the proportion is higher — 25 per cent — when one considers the ticket allotted by the BJP and the Congress. Thirteen of the 52 candidates fielded by the two parties have a criminal record. In the 2002 Assemply elections, only 17.4 per cent of the contestants of the BJP and the Congress had criminal proceedings pending against them.

The report says 33 candidates possess assets worth over Rs.50 lakh. Thirteen among them have movable and immovable property exceeding Rs. 1 crore. Mr. Radadia, the Congress nominee from Porbandar, has declared assets worth Rs.73.43 lakh. Virjibhai Keshavbhai Thummer, also of the Congress, contesting the Amreli seat, has assets worth Rs. 1.52 crore. Fifty-three per cent of the candidates do not have a Permanent Account Number (PAN), mandatory for those with taxable income.

Significantly, even some of those without the PAN have declared assets totalling more than one crore. Eighteen candidates, mainly from the Congress and the BJP, are believed to have liabilities of more than Rs.5 lakh. Eleven candidates from the smaller parties have either declared that they have no assets or have not disclosed such information. Similar information is being compiled for other States as well. The voters in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Kerala, West Bengal,

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