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, those benefited with the ongoing separatist movement in the land of classical Manipuri dances, splendid theatres and worming artworks, are the politicians.
In the 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 huge amount of monetary growth. In fact, while the common people are worst hit due to extortion, insecurity and unbelievable high prices of essential commodities, political party candidates for the 60-member Manipur Assembly election, scheduled on January 28, have shown nearly 400 % of growth of their properties in the last few years.
Primarily, those MLAs seeking re-election have established their huge property growth. Many of them are also not free from criminal charges. A recent study shows that at least 33 candidates are Crorepatis. But most of them have never filed their income tax returns.
Amazingly, over 85 candidates have not given PAN details in their affidavits submitted to the election officers. “Out of 258 candidates analyzed, the number of re-contesting MLAs is 41 and significantly their average assets (as declared in nomination papers) 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 the profile of the candidates. Mr. Hussain also added that the average growth of assets for the re-contesting MLAs is Rs 98,08,956 and hence the percentage growth of assets is reported as high as 414 percent.
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW) with the help of like minded NGOs and other civil society groups has been working on electoral reforms and improvement of democratic process in India. The analysis is a part of their activities to expose the candidates vying for Legislative or Parliamentary space.
The first three richest candidates in the Manipur polls belong to the Congress, as T.N. Haokip tops the list of crorepati (with assets of over Rs 10 crore). Another Congress leader, Alfred Kan-ngam Arthur, followed him with assets of Rs 7 crore and Biren Singh shows his assets of over Rs 5 crore. Others who follow in the list include RKI Singh (MSCP – 2.68 crore), Kh Govindas (Congress – 2.49 crore), Sehpu Haokip (NPF -2.45 crore), Haokholet Kipgen (NPP – 2.38 crore), Thangzalam Haokip (AITC – 2.36 crore), Ginsuanhau (Congress – 2.32 crore) Radhabinod Koijam (NCP – 2.24 crore) and so on.
The analysis also shows that out of the 258 candidates, at least three candidates (Alhaj Md. Ahmed Ali of Congress, Laishram Kadamjit Singh of MSCP and Kongkhom Maglem Singh of AITC) have the pending criminal charges against them. A comparison of candidates with pending criminal cases in the election in 2007 and the upcoming polls shows that the number of candidates with pending criminal cases has increased this time.
The ruling Congress is seeking re-election for the third consecutive term. If the party gets mandate from Manipur’s 1,740,820 voters, it would be Okram Ibobi Singh’s third consecutive success as like as Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s triumph. It has committed itself to ‘fight corruption by effectively enforcing the Lokayukta’ in the State. The party poll manifesto tries to woo people with the pledge of revoking the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 from Manipur, if voted to power again.