Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: In poverty stricken part of Odisha, a whopping 46 per cent netas who are going to contest polls in first phase are crorepatis.

The irony is phase-1 elections are going to take place in that part of Odisha, the undivided Koraput and Kalahandi district, which has the highest number of poor in the State and are among the top backward districts in Odisha.

The backwardness though finds a mirror image in the netas when their education profile suggests that a massive 53 per cent of contesting candidates in assembly constituencies going to polls could read  only  5th to 12th standard. But the poverty hardly finds a reflection in the netas of this poor land.

Significantly, the poverty rich Koraput has candidates who have the lowest assets of a meagre Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. But none belong to any of the 4 major parties - BJD, BJP, Congress and BSP. Interestingly, two independent candidates contesting from Gopalpur and Nuapada assembly seats, respectively, have nil assets.

According to the data analysed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), when around 22 per cent contesting MLA candidates have assets around Rs 2cr - Rs 5cr; around 20 per cent have assets worth Rs 50 lakh to Rs 2crore. Around 4 per cent candidates have assets over Rs 5 crore. The analysis further added that while 28 per cent contestants have assets totalling Rs 10 - Rs 50 lakh. Only 38 per cent candidates have less than Rs 50 lakh assets.

When transparency has been the buzzword in 'New India', the twist in the tale is a high of around 14 per cent of the contestants didn't reveal their PAN details in their affidavits filed. A high of 50 per cent political leaders contesting polls have not declared their ITR details. BJD candidate from Paralakhemundi, Kalyani Gajapati, has not filed Income Tax Return (ITR) details.

The big revelation from the ADR report is the ruling BJD has the distinction of housing the most rich candidates in the State. A high of 61 per cent of BJD candidates in the first phase polls are crorepatis. Congress party is home to 52 per cent crorepati contestants. BJP looks apparently poorest as only 39 per cent of its candidates are crorepatis.

The report disclosed that average assets of BJD candidates in the phase -I polls were at Rs 2.58 crore; whereas the figure of BJP and Congress stood at Rs 2.06 crore and Rs 1.95 crore, respectively.

Among the assembly candidates, BJP's Dharmagarh candidate has the highest declared assets of Rs 27 crore, including immovable assets of Rs 26 crore. Berhampur Congress candidate Lingaraj Choudhry comes 2nd with Rs 17 crore and is followed by senior BJD leader and Minister Surjya Narayan Patro with declared assets worth Rs 16 crore. Among the Lok Sabha contestants, Congress candidate from Berhampur and industrialist V Chandrasekhar Rao is the richest among 26  LS candidates contesting first phase polls.

BJD candidate Bikram Panda and BJP candidate Kanhu Pati have the highest liability among all assembly contestants going to polls in first phase on April 11.

The ADR report informed that a high of around 80 per cent contestants in  first phase are in the age-group of 25 - 60 years. And female contestants in the phase -I are in 16 per cent constituencies only.

Around 29 per cent of contestants in the phase - I polls have grave criminal cases against their name, reveals the ADR report.

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