The Times Of India

AGARTALA: The number of candidates contesting the February 14 polls who have criminal charges filed against them has increased to eight per cent, from three per cent in the last assembly elections in the state in 2008, a report published on Monday said. 

Tripura Election Watch (TEW), state chapter of the non-profit National Election Watch (NEW), also noted that six per cent (16) candidates are crorepatis (people whose wealth exceeds Rs 1 crore) this time, against two per cent (7) in 2008. 

The report said the number of women candidates is six per cent (15) this time, out of the total 249 candidates -- in 2008, women comprised nine per cent (31) of the total 313 candidates. 

"Of the 16 crorepati candidates, 12 are from the Congress, there are two independents and one each from CPM (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) who have declared assets ranging from Rs 10 million (one crore) to Rs 90 million," NEW programme coordinator Mashqura Fareedi told reporters. 

"There are criminal cases against 27 per cent of the 48 Congress candidates, followed by two per cent of the 50 BJP contestants, and two per cent of 55 CPM contenders," Fareedi said. 

"The increase rate of crorepati candidates and aspirants with criminal charges in Tripura exceeds the national average," Fareedi said. 

Of the 249 aspirants of different parties, 19 candidates (8 per cent) have been charged with murder, rape, criminal conspiracy, criminal intimidation, cheating, forgery and violation of the Wildlife Protection Act. 

Congress candidate Chandi Charan Tripura, contesting from Manu assembly segment, reserved for tribals, in southern Tripura, has cases registered against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act. 

According to the report, 94 of the 249 candidates (38 per cent) are graduates or have higher degrees, while 14 candidates have not even completed schooling. 

The report also said that 51 CPM candidates (93 per cent) and 46 BJP nominees (92 per cent) had never filed income tax returns. 

There are 15 candidates of different political parties who are more than 65 years of age in the fray this time. 

The TEW, a platform of academics, journalists, social activities, intellectuals, NGOs and retired officials, published the 51-page report of the candidates' profile based on affidavits filed along with their nomination papers. 

Since December 2002, the NEW and ADR ( Association of Democratic Reforms) in association with other non-political bodies have been publishing such candidate profile reports ahead of all state assembly and Lok Sabha elections in India. 

The group also published the financial position of candidates contesting the polls. 

"Following the Supreme Court judgments of May 2, 2002 and March 13, 2003, it is the citizen's fundamental right to know the background of candidates before casting their valuable votes," said Biswendu Bhattacharjee, coordinator of ADR and TEW. 

The ADR, a national body working for improving democracy and governance in India since 1999, helped TEW compile the report.

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