Financial Express

Nava Thakuria in Guwahati in the Indian state of Assam. Insurgency is synonymous with the socio-political landscape of Manipur in northeast India. Besides the insurgent leaders of nearly 15 armed outfits and their well-wishers, anybody benefited with the ongoing separatist movement in the land of classical Manipuri dances, splendid theatres and worming artworks, are the politicians. In absence of a free and fair atmosphere for the growth of conscious civil society groups, these political party leaders play the role of saviour and that way they earn their dividend with a huge amount of monetary benefits. In fact, while the common people are dying of extortion, insecurity

and unbelievable high prices of essential commodities, the political party candidates for the 60-member Manipur State Assembly Election (on January 28), had shown nearly 400 per cent of growth of their properties or assets in the last few years. Primarily, those members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) seeking re-election, have established their huge property growth. Many of them are also not free from criminal charges.

A recent study showed that at least 33 candidates, running for the Manipur 2012 polls, were 'crorepatis'. But most of them had never filed their income tax returns. Amazingly, over 85 candidates had not given PAN details in their affidavits submitted to the election officers. "Out of 258 candidates analyzed for Manipur 2012 Assembly Elections, the number of re-contesting MLAs is 41 and significantly the average assets (as they have declared in 2012) is Rs 1,21,78,887. But the average assets of these MLAs as declared in 2007 was Rs 23,69,931,"said Tasaduk Ariful Hussain, regional coordinator of North East

Election Watch, which studied about the candidates of Manipur elections.

Speaking to this writer, Hussain also added that the average growth of assets for these re-contesting MLAs (Manipur polls) was Rs 98,08,956 and hence the percentage growth in assets for these politicians (in average) is reported as high as 414 per cent.

Mentionable that the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW) with the help of the like-minded non-government organizations (NGOs) and other civil society groups have been working on electoral reforms and improvement of democratic process in India. The analysis is a part of their activities to expose the poll candidates vying for Legislative or Parliamentary space.

"We, with the help of Manipur Election Watch, had analyzed 258 affidavits of candidates contesting in the State Assembly elections. Out of them, there are 41 MLAs who are re-contesting in the polls. This analysis is based on the affidavits filed in 2007 and 2012. It attempts to compare the assets of MLAs from the Manipur Assembly 2007, who are re-contesting in 2012 Assembly elections," said Anil Bairwal, national coordinator of ADR and NEW.

The first three richest candidates in the State polls belong to the Congress, as TN Haokip tops the list of 'crorepatis' (with assets of over Rs 100 million (10 crore). Another Congress leader Alfred Kan-ngam Arthur followed him with the assets of Rs 70 million (7.0 crore) and Biren Singh shows his assets of over Rs 5 Crore. Others who follow the list include RKI Singh (Manipur State Congress Party, 26.8 million), Kh Govindas (Congress, 24.9 million), Sehpu Haokip (Naga People's Front, 24.50 million), Haokholet Kipgen (Naga People's Front, 23.8 million), Thangzalam Haokip (AITC, 23.60 million), Ginsuanhau (Congress, 23.2 million) Radhabinod Koijam (Nationalist Congress Party, 22.4 million) etc.

The analysis additionally showed that out of these 258 candidates, at least three candidates (Alhaj Md. Ahmed Ali of Congress, Laishram Kadamjit Singh of MSCP and Kongkhom Maglem Singh of AITC) had pending criminal charges against them. A comparison between candidates with pending criminal cases in Manipur elections held in 2007 and 2012established that the number of candidates with pending criminal cases had increased this time.

The ruling Congress is seeking re-election for the third consecutive term at Imphal and hence committing to 'fight corruption by effectively enforcing the Lokayukta' in the State. Even the party poll manifesto tries to capitalise the mandates of people with the pledge for revoking the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 from Manipur, if voted to power.

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