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'Affidavits hide more than they reveal'

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MAY 4. An analysis of the affidavits filed by persons contesting in the Lok Sabha election has revealed that there is gross under-declaration of assets and liabilities by most candidates.

The analysis, done by Election Watch Kerala (EWK), has also shown that not many candidates have bothered to answer all the questions in the form provided for the purpose or give complete and clear information about their assets and liabilities. EWK, which released its findings here today, is of the view that `there is a need to redesign the format of the affidavit to make it easier for filling by candidates and processing by authorities and public interest groups'.

Releasing the report at a news conference, the EWK chairperson, M.N.V. Nair, pointed out that one candidate has put his liquid assets at just Rs. 240 and that of his spouse at Rs. 140, but has also stated that he owned a car, leaving the question how he maintained the vehicle a puzzle.

The EWK secretary, V. Vivekanandan, pointed out that out of the 177 candidates in the fray, 107 had stated that they had no liability. "This is something unbelievable for every person is likely to have a loan in his/her or spouses' name," he said.

The 36-page report claims that only 21 (12 per cent) have filed Income Tax returns and only 53 (30 per cent) have obtained the Permanent Account Number (PAN).

The Opposition LDF fares better both in terms of the number of candidates having PAN and those who have filed tax returns.

While 15 of the 20 LDF candidates have obtained PAN, only 13 of the UDF candidates and eight of the NDA candidates have obtained it.

The LDF candidates who have filed IT returns number eight, whereas only four UDF and five NDA nominees have done so. Few have declared payment of property or wealth tax. Equally few have cared to add the value of their vehicles to their total assets.

On the positive side, the study has revealed that the criminal background of candidates is not a problem in Kerala. Only 25 candidates (14 per cent) have reported registration of some cases against them, but a close study of the declarations shows that most of these related to offences such as unlawful assembly, obstruction of public duty and damage to public property, offences related to public protests. "It is a measure of the social and political environment in Kerala that persons with criminal records are not fielded as candidates in elections," the report observes.

However, the report notes that Kerala has much in common with the rest of India when it comes to gender bias in nominating candidates.

More than 90 per cent of the candidates are men. Older men appear to have an edge over younger men, especially from established political parties. In the three major fronts, 55 per cent of the candidates are above 45 years of age.

Of the 177 candidates, 53 per cent are graduates and 85 per cent have cleared the matriculation level.

While 65 candidates (37 per cent) have reported total assets of less than Rs. 1 lakh, seven candidates (4 per cent) have reported assets worth over Rs. 1 crore. An independent candidate from Kozhikode, Shantivarma Jain, is the wealthiest with assets worth Rs. 18 crores.

Among the Front candidates, the wealthiest is the Congress nominee in Kasaragod, N. A. Mohammed, with assets worth Rs. 11.87 crores, the report says.

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