The Hindu

More than 60% of the 301 candidates contesting the upcoming Goa Assembly election are “crorepatis” on the basis of their filed income tax returns while 26% have criminal cases against them, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) — an NGO working on electoral and political reforms.

According to the analysis by the Goa Election Watch and the ADR, the average asset value of the 187 mega-rich candidates is ₹6.48 crore.

While 12 candidates have cases relating to crime against women, one is embroiled in a case related to rape (Section 376 of the IPC) while eight have attempt to murder cases (Section 307) against them.

The richest among the candidates are former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Minister-turned-Congressman Michael Lobo and his wife, Delilah Lobo, whose assets total a staggering ₹93 crore each.

They are followed by another husband-wife duo: ex-Congressman-turned BJP MLA from Panaji, Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate and his wife, BJP Minister Jennifer Monserrate, with assets ₹48 crore each. Mr. Monserrate also has a rape case against him.

“It ought to have taken close to 100 years for these candidates to accumulate the kind of wealth based on their I-T returns they have been filing for the last five years…Assets that are being shown by Mr. Lobo and his wife amount to nearly ₹93 crores. They have been filing the returns for the last five years averaging at ₹4.8 crores. One can only imagine the number of years that it must have taken to amass such wealth and whether their age justifies this accumulation of wealth,” said Bhasker Assoldekar, ADR Goa coordinator.

Goa Forward Party (GFP) chief Vijai Sardesai’s assets stand at a whopping ₹37 crore and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) president Deepak Dhavalikar’s at ₹32 crore.

“Deepak Dhavalikar has been showing the same wealth and value of the property for the last four elections in his pre-election affidavits — be it the 2007, 2012, 2017 or the upcoming election. The Election Commission of India (ECI) wants each candidate to submit the approximate current value of his or her property in their affidavits... But this gentleman has been giving the same value of his assets. I had even given a letter to the Chief Election Officer in December last year cautioning that there could be some candidate who could be doing this,” Mr. Assoldekar said.

While 93 candidates have assets worth over ₹5 crore, 60 have declared assets of over ₹10 crore.

According to the ADR report, while not a single candidate is illiterate, 138 (46%) candidates have declared their educational qualifications to be between the 5th and 12th standard and 127 (42%) candidates have declared having an educational qualification of graduate or above.

“34 (11%) candidates are diploma holders and two candidates have declared themselves to be just literate.”

Maj. Gen. Anil Verma (Retd), Head of ADR, said: “The directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on the political parties in the selection of candidates in Phase 1 & II of the U.P., Uttarakhand & Goa Assembly elections as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to candidates with criminal cases — All major parties contesting in U.P. phase II elections have given tickets to candidates who have declared criminal cases against themselves (14% to 67%), in Uttarakhand (17 % to 33%) and in Goa (23% to 46%).”

The report urged the ECI and the State Election Commissions to make it mandatory in all elections to post display boards outside every polling booth showing a summarised version of the candidates’ affidavits.

Maj. Gen. Anil Verma (Retd) said while the Supreme Court, in its directions dated February 13, 2020, had specifically instructed political parties to give reasons for selecting tainted candidates and why other individuals could not be selected, it appeared that political parties had no inclination towards reforming the political system.

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