India Today
Vikas Kahol

More than 60 candidates fielded in Punjab by major political parties, including the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), are facing criminal cases.

Punjab Election Watch (PEW) - an affiliate of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) which is spearheading the nationwide move for electoral reforms - analysed 408 affidavits furnished by the candidates in the fray and found that 22 among of them were involved in serious crimes such as murder, attempt to murder and kidnap.

The Congress, it found, has fielded the maximum tainted candidates - 23. Next comes the ruling SAD, which has fielded 18 such candidates on 93 seats.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has nine tainted candidates in 61 constituencies while the People's Party of Punjab (PPP) has seven candidates with criminal cases on 89 seats. There are 1,078 candidates in the fray.The analysis was made public in Chandigarh on Monday by Prof. Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of the ADR, and Jaskirat Singh, the coordinator of PEW. The ADR also analysed the assets of the candidates and their level of education. Nearly half the nominees fielded by prominent political parties have never been to college. Seven of the 408 candidates contesting the state assembly election are illiterate.

Sixty-one candidates are not even matriculate pass. Less than half - 190 - are graduate or have achieved a higher educational level. Highlighting the fact that contesting elections had become the prerogative of the financially strong candidates, Prof. Chhokar said 266 (65 per cent) candidates among the 408 analysed were crorepatis.

Among the major parties, the Congress candidates are the richest. Karan Kaur, who is contesting on the party's ticket from Muktsar, is the first on the rich-list, with declared assets worth Rs.128.4 crore.

She is followed by Sukhbir Singh Badal of the SAD. Sukhbir, contesting from Jalalabad, has assets worth Rs.90.8 crore; while Congress candidate Kewal Singh Dhillon, standing from Barnala, is worth Rs.78.5 crore. Seven candidates have assets less than Rs.1 lakh. In the 2007 assembly elections, 184 crorepati candidates were in the fray.

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