Deccan Herald

A total of 22 candidates of the 90 in fray in 14 Maoist-affected assembly constituencies in the final phase of West Bengal’s assembly polls have criminal cases pending against them, an election watchdog said Friday.

The self-declared affidavits of the candidates revealed that of the 22 with criminal backgrounds, the maximum of three each are from Trinamool Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), followed by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Congress with two each. Five independent candidates, including jailed convenor of a pro-Maoist tribal body in Lalgarh - Chhatradhar Mahato - are also accused in criminal cases, West Bengal Election Watch (WBEW) said.

WBEW state coordinator Biplab Halim told IANS that independent candidates like Chhatradhar and Abhinash Rajwar are accused in 61 and eight cases, respectively, including murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and theft. Among the 10 candidates with serious pending criminal cases, four are independent, two are from Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and one each from CPI-M, BJP, Jharkhand Party Naren (JKP-N) and All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU).

A total 65 candidates have declared that they have never filed income tax returns. These include JAP nominee Bholanath Mahato, who has assets worth Rs.57.71 lakh, and JKP (N) candidate Chunibala Hansda and Trinamool’s Shantiram Mahato, with assets worth over Rs.39 lakh and Rs.25 lakh, respectively. Among these 65 candidates, nine are from BJP, six from CPI-M while Trinamool and Congress have four and two candidates, respectively.

As many as 41 of the 90 candidates have not given their PAN details, the WBEW said.

However, the candidates contesting in the May 10 sixth phase are not so rich compared to those belonging to other constituencies. Only Trinamool nominee Sukumar Hansda is a ‘crorepati’ (multi-millionaire), with assets worth over Rs.1.22 crore.

He is followed by party colleague, Mrigendranath Maity, with assets worth over Rs.52.92 lakh and JAP’s Bholanath Mahato, with assets amounting to over Rs.57.71 lakh. Chunibala Hansda, who was elected from Binpur on a JKP-N ticket in 2006 and is now contesting on a Congress ticket, has assets worth over Rs.39.59 lakh, said Halim.

‘A total of four candidates have declared in their affidavits to have liabilities above several lakh rupees. Rakesh Mahato of AJSU has liabilities over Rs.25 Lakh, followed by Taraknath Gan of BJP with liabilities over Rs.8.35 lakh. Congress’s Nepal Mahato and Trinamool’s Falguni Hembram also have liabilities over Rs.8.22 lakh and Rs.4.4 lakh, respectively,” he said.

WBEW is a civil society initiative working on making voters aware of their rights and helping them to make an informed choice in casting their votes.

It also pointed out that among the candidates contesting in the final phase, two are barely literate while 13 are school dropouts. Only 30 have passed secondary examination and 10 have passed their higher secondary exam. However, eight candidates are post- graduates as mentioned in their affidavits, added Halim.

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