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Monday, November 5, 2012

Crorepathi candidates - never filed IT returns - Himachal Pradesh Elections

Elections in India are grand and massive affairs – they are in some ways like festivals.  This State which went to polls yesterday has only 4 Parliamentary constituencies and 68 assembly segments of which BJP won 45 in the previous elections  -. BJP's Prem Kumar Dhumal was sworn in as Chief Minister  on 30 December 2007.

In this hilly state, fruit cultivation has  proved to be an economic boon. There are huge tracts of land suitable only for growing fruits.. Apple farming produces the maximum income. Fruit growing in the state is fetching over Rs.300 crore annually. Though the state is deficient in food grains, it has gained a lot in other spheres of agricultural production such as seed potato, ginger, vegetables, vegetable seeds, mushrooms, chicory seeds, hops, olives and fig.  There is also cultivation of mushrooms, flowers, pistachio nuts, sarda melon and saffron.

It is Himachal Pradesh,   spread over 21,495 sq mi (55,670 km2),bordered by Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand and Tibet.  Himachal Pradesh is famous for its abundant natural beauty. In 1950 Himachal became  a union territory but after the State of Himachal Pradesh Act 1971, Himachal emerged as the 18th state of the Republic of India. Hima means snow in Sanskrit, and the literal meaning of the state's name is ‘in the lap of Himalayas’.  The Economy of the Himachal Pradesh is currently the third fastest growing economy in India.  Hindus make up 95% of the state population, making it the most Hindu state (proportionally), in India.   It’s capital is Shimla, known for its scenic locations – hills with snow capped peaks. 

Elections to the Himachal Pradesh Assembly took place peacefully on Sunday except for minor EVM snags at some places. About 75 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise and there are reports of heavy polling in rural areas. Whenever, there is higher % of voting, it generally has indicated a shift in governance and that way it could be a worry for the ruling BJP.  Elections were held simultaneously in all 68 constituencies.

Though it is not a big State like UP, MP, AP still as many  as 146 candidates contesting the upcoming Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections are 'crorepatis', according to a NGO report.  The study conducted by Himachal Pradesh Election Watch, an NGO generating awareness among voters, also found that assets of 54 MLAs, re-contesting polls this year, grew on an average by 172 per cent since the 2007 elections.

Leading the table is Brij Behari Lal Butail of Congress from Palampur constituency with assets worth Rs 169 crore, followed by Balbir Singh Verma (independent candidate from Chopal) with Rs 41 crore and Congress candidate Ram Kumar (Doon constituency) with Rs 36 crore.  In the World’s democracy, where there are reports of IT authorities conducting raids frequently on traders, shops and industrialists, there is little or at best targeted raids on politicians though they are repeatedly in news for amassing wealth. 

Firstpost reports that , while black money – also known to be money that is not taxed – is a rampant ill in India, its politicians often lead by bad example. Case in point being candidates contesting in Himachal Pradesh’s Assembly Election on 4 November. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, an electoral and political reforms NGO, the CPM’s candidate from Theog, Rakesh Singh, having total assets worth Rs 17.28 crore, leads the list of candidates having high assets but those who have never filed IT returns. Singh is followed by Vijay Jayoti an independent from Kasumpti with assets of Rs 7.23 crore and CPM’s candidate from Shimla Tikender Panwar who has assets of Rs 3.05 crore.  The top 10 candidates in the list have assets ranging from almost Rs 99 lakh to Rs 17.28 crore – but have never filed income tax returns.

Of the total of 459 candidates contesting the Assembly elections in the state, ADR analysed 445 of them for their IT declarations. Of those analysed, the organisation found that 163 candidates had never filed their income taxes. Of the defaulters, BSP had 40 out of 62 candidates, BJP had 11 out of 68 candidates, HLP had 13 out of 32 candidates, AITC has 11 out of 26 candidates and Congress had 2 out of 68 candidates who have not filed IT returns.

Ask any individual tax payer, they sure will carry tale of woe of how difficult is to file returns and how difficult it is to claim refund from the Income tax authorities.   The news of candidates not even caring to file Income tax returns but aspiring to become rulers makes a sad reading and makes a mockery of the election system.  There is concern that systemic changes are required or else democracy will be fractured by the moneybags

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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