K. Balchand

321 facing criminal charges

Campaign for last phase ends

NEW DELHI: The State of Jharkhand may be down in the dumps but many of its current and aspiring legislators seem to be doing quite well for themselves.

With a personal asset growth rate of 112,121 per cent over the past five years, Bhushan Tirkey of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Gumla heads the list of 37 sitting MLAs seeking re-election, who have collectively experienced an average increase in their net worth of 3,454 per cent.

According to the Association for Democratic Rights, which compiled the data based on the papers candidates filed along with their nominations, Mr. Tirkey’s declared wealth in 2004 was just Rs. 6,000. It now stands at Rs. 6,733,275.

Remarkably, for a State as poor as Jharkhand, at least 71 candidates declared they had assets in excess of Rs.1 crore, the richest among them being Roshan Kumar Surin, the Congress contender from Khunti, who declared assets worth more than Rs. 27 crore.

Though corruption and crime may have been the main focus of the campaign in the five-phase Assembly elections which came to a close on Wednesday, that didn’t stop major parties from fielding a high percentage of candidates with dubious records.

The ADR’s data shows that 321 candidates — 32 per cent of all those in the fray — are facing criminal charges. Of these, 155 candidates are facing serious charges such as rape, murder and attempt to murder. But these charges did not deter all parties from throwing their weight behind such “powerful” persons in the hope of winning as large a share of the 81-member Assembly as possible.

According to the ADR, 76 candidates fielded by major parties were facing the charges of rape, buying minors for prostitution, kidnapping, murder, attempt to murder and dacoity. The Congress fielded 12 such candidates in the 62 seats it contested, and this means 20 per cent of its would-be MLAs are facing serious charges. At least six out of the BJP’s 66 candidates fall in this category, a nine per cent blot. The JMM was in the lead, harbouring 22 such persons out of the 77 it fielded, the AJSU fielded 14, the RJD 13, the AITC 9, the BSP 8 and the JVM-P 10 such candidates who had declared they had been charged with serious crimes. At the bottom end of the asset scale, they were just 15 candidates whose annual income did not exceed Rs.10,000. Four of them had no assets against their name at all, while two had less than Rs.1000. Most of these indigent candidates contested as independents.