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74 pollutants
And, millionaires without PAN
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
In what appears to be a mockery of the election process, 74 candidates of recognised parties have been facing charges as serious as murder, rape, kidnapping, cheating, sedition and even bigamy.

Several candidates don’t have a PAN card, which is mandatory for anybody who earns more than Rs 8,333 a month or Rs 1 lakh annually. They include five candidates having assets worth more than Rs 5 crore. Among the main parties, 32 candidates of the Congress, 20 of the SAD, 77 of the BSP and three of the BJP do not have PAN cards.

As many as 45 candidates are worth more than Rs 5 crore and a whopping 173 have more than Rs 1 crore worth of assets.

The Punjab Election Watch (PEW), an NGO, today exposed chinks in the democratic system, saying that 95 per cent of the affidavits filed by 388 candidates of leading parties, including the Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI and the CPM, are incomplete.

The affidavits read more like a series of errors, said Mr U.K. Sharda, a member of PEW. Details in respect of bank deposits, shares, other financial assets have generally not been disclosed. A large number of them has neither filed income tax returns nor disclosed educational qualification correctly. Vague answers like “undergraduate” or “undermatric” are the norm in such affidavits. One candidate has mentioned his qualification “all subjects of higher secondary”, he added.

Some of the affidavits are not even in the prescribed format, Mr Sharda said, giving the example of the BSP candidate from Zira, Mr Balwant Singh. His affidavit does not even bear the name of the contestant, his father’s name or the name of the spouse, said Mr Sharda.

Chaudhary Ram Lubhaya, Congress candidate from Sham Chaurasi in Hoshiarpur, does not mention the current market value of his 11 immovable properties saying “value not known”. Six contestants have even filed the affidavit regarding accounting of election expenditure. Interestingly, these are to be filed after the elections are over, said Mr Sharda.

Mr Hitender Jain, another member of the core group of PEW, said the group would file a petition before the Chief Election Commissioner and also a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court.

Mr Bhibu Mahapatra, from the Association of Democratic Reforms, said the money power of Punjab leaders was shocking.

The Congress has 22 candidates worth more than Rs 5 crore while the SAD and the BJP have 17 and 4 candidates in this category, respectively. Even the CPI has one candidate worth more than Rs 5 crore.

Of 74 candidates facing charges, five are of the CPM, 28 of the SAD and 12 have been fielded by the Congress. In a majority of the affidavits, short description of offence has not been mentioned.

As far as liabilities above Rs 25 lakh is concerned, the Congress, the SAD and the BJP have 18, 12 and two such candidates, respectively.

Mr Sharda said: “It seems that the whole process of scrutiny by the officials is just an eyewash.”

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